It’s beginning to look a lot like calving season around here. Our bred heifers are close to the barn and are starting to look like waddling pigs instead of svelte cattle. Udders plump, bellies bursting, the ladies are starting to look uncomfortable, and in turn, we are starting to get nervous.
Morning, noon, afternoon, evening and midnight checks are now the norm, as we anticipate new babies on the way. Yesterday’s due date has come and gone, and we are still awaiting. The cows pace, and we pace, too. Worry, wait, worry. When will those babies finally come?
To make matters more precarious, South Dakota is experiencing sub-zero temperatures, with a windchill that has an extremely cold bite to it.
So, we haul extra straw and have the barn warm and ready, just waiting for those first babies to drop.
By the end of calving season, we’re worn and ragged — our coveralls are torn and muddy, our gloves have a hole or two in them, and our hat is tattered from both the frost of winter storms and the sweat of hard work. But we’re happy, too, to see all those calves on the ground, healthy and growing.
We know before the first calf even makes its appearance that we won’t save them all. Dumb luck seems to catch us off guard no matter how hard we try. We have lost calves to everything from mud to lightning, and after decades of raising these critters, we still get sad if we lose one.
This time of year is both a blessing and a curse for cattlemen, as it saps your energy and reserve tanks, too. But, at the end of the day, we are reminded of the beautiful circle of life and seeing those calves frolic in the pasture this spring, makes all the worrying and hard work worthwhile.
So, as I make the rounds and check those bred heifers yet again this morning, I will remind myself that I’m blessed to be in this business and that God has granted me a wonderful life where I can serve as the caretaker of these wonderful animals. And, I will pray and pray and pray that the calves that are born today are healthy and happy. That’s all a cattleman has to do — work hard and show gratitude. Calving season is the perfect reminder of that. ❖
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