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Calving in Deep Snow

Story by Kathrtyn Bedell, DVM
Debeque, Colo.
Photos by Chris Bedell

Our friend and neighbor on Carr Creek was leaving town to visit a hunting convention in Salt Lake City. He asked us to feed and check his cows as they were starting to calve. Then he told me they wouldn’t have any problems because there were no first calf heifers. He left Friday and that afternoon I went the mile up the road to his place and saw that the cows had plenty of hay. Some cows did look close to calving. There was no calving barn and the snow was about 3 feet deep so he had been unrolling round bales to give the cows a dry place to calve.

The next morning my husband Chris and I went up to feed and check the cows. I was moving a little slow because I was battling a cold and the cold was winning. I felt terrible. Chris got on the neighbor’s tractor, a fancy newer model John Deer with a cab and heat. I opened the gates to the hay yard. This winter of heavy snow has made opening gates a huge issue. All the gates around here are set to sit 1 foot to 18 inches above the bare ground. This year we’ve had to shovel snow at each gate to be able to swing them. Any time you go to a gate you haven’t used in a while it means and extra 30 minutes shoveling. Sometimes it’s easier to take the gate off the hinges, if possible, and move it rather than shovel. Anyhow, Chris started setting out round bales and I walked the herd to count the calves and look for newborns. I walked out along the ditch and counted seven calves and saw no problems. Then I saw 4 cows above me and waded through the snow to look at them. As soon as I got level with them I could see what looked like a dead calf flat out near it’s Hereford mom. It was melted into the snow about 8 inches so it’s whole body was in a calf shaped depression. I noted her ear tag number, 107, and told her I was sorry about her calf. I went to inspect the calf when I saw a small shiver run down the calf’s back leg. I realized it wasn’t dead.

I cautiously approached keeping an eye on the cow. I’d been ground into the snow too many times to be brave but I had to get to the calf. Keeping the calf between the mom and myself, I got to the calf. It was barely alive and frozen to the ground. I took my Carhartt coat off and covered the calf. The mom ran off. Then I started to pry the calf from the frozen ground, starting at its muzzle I worked back putting my legs under the calf as I got it off the ground. I had it loose now but as it weighed about 90 lbs and in my weakened state, I could not lift it myself

Our friend and neighbor on Carr Creek was leaving town to visit a hunting convention in Salt Lake City. He asked us to feed and check his cows as they were starting to calve. Then he told me they wouldn’t have any problems because there were no first calf heifers. He left Friday and that afternoon I went the mile up the road to his place and saw that the cows had plenty of hay. Some cows did look close to calving. There was no calving barn and the snow was about 3 feet deep so he had been unrolling round bales to give the cows a dry place to calve.

The next morning my husband Chris and I went up to feed and check the cows. I was moving a little slow because I was battling a cold and the cold was winning. I felt terrible. Chris got on the neighbor’s tractor, a fancy newer model John Deer with a cab and heat. I opened the gates to the hay yard. This winter of heavy snow has made opening gates a huge issue. All the gates around here are set to sit 1 foot to 18 inches above the bare ground. This year we’ve had to shovel snow at each gate to be able to swing them. Any time you go to a gate you haven’t used in a while it means and extra 30 minutes shoveling. Sometimes it’s easier to take the gate off the hinges, if possible, and move it rather than shovel. Anyhow, Chris started setting out round bales and I walked the herd to count the calves and look for newborns. I walked out along the ditch and counted seven calves and saw no problems. Then I saw 4 cows above me and waded through the snow to look at them. As soon as I got level with them I could see what looked like a dead calf flat out near it’s Hereford mom. It was melted into the snow about 8 inches so it’s whole body was in a calf shaped depression. I noted her ear tag number, 107, and told her I was sorry about her calf. I went to inspect the calf when I saw a small shiver run down the calf’s back leg. I realized it wasn’t dead.

I cautiously approached keeping an eye on the cow. I’d been ground into the snow too many times to be brave but I had to get to the calf. Keeping the calf between the mom and myself, I got to the calf. It was barely alive and frozen to the ground. I took my Carhartt coat off and covered the calf. The mom ran off. Then I started to pry the calf from the frozen ground, starting at its muzzle I worked back putting my legs under the calf as I got it off the ground. I had it loose now but as it weighed about 90 lbs and in my weakened state, I could not lift it myself

Our friend and neighbor on Carr Creek was leaving town to visit a hunting convention in Salt Lake City. He asked us to feed and check his cows as they were starting to calve. Then he told me they wouldn’t have any problems because there were no first calf heifers. He left Friday and that afternoon I went the mile up the road to his place and saw that the cows had plenty of hay. Some cows did look close to calving. There was no calving barn and the snow was about 3 feet deep so he had been unrolling round bales to give the cows a dry place to calve.

The next morning my husband Chris and I went up to feed and check the cows. I was moving a little slow because I was battling a cold and the cold was winning. I felt terrible. Chris got on the neighbor’s tractor, a fancy newer model John Deer with a cab and heat. I opened the gates to the hay yard. This winter of heavy snow has made opening gates a huge issue. All the gates around here are set to sit 1 foot to 18 inches above the bare ground. This year we’ve had to shovel snow at each gate to be able to swing them. Any time you go to a gate you haven’t used in a while it means and extra 30 minutes shoveling. Sometimes it’s easier to take the gate off the hinges, if possible, and move it rather than shovel. Anyhow, Chris started setting out round bales and I walked the herd to count the calves and look for newborns. I walked out along the ditch and counted seven calves and saw no problems. Then I saw 4 cows above me and waded through the snow to look at them. As soon as I got level with them I could see what looked like a dead calf flat out near it’s Hereford mom. It was melted into the snow about 8 inches so it’s whole body was in a calf shaped depression. I noted her ear tag number, 107, and told her I was sorry about her calf. I went to inspect the calf when I saw a small shiver run down the calf’s back leg. I realized it wasn’t dead.

I cautiously approached keeping an eye on the cow. I’d been ground into the snow too many times to be brave but I had to get to the calf. Keeping the calf between the mom and myself, I got to the calf. It was barely alive and frozen to the ground. I took my Carhartt coat off and covered the calf. The mom ran off. Then I started to pry the calf from the frozen ground, starting at its muzzle I worked back putting my legs under the calf as I got it off the ground. I had it loose now but as it weighed about 90 lbs and in my weakened state, I could not lift it myself


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