Til’ the cows come home

Audrey Powles

            Well if the old saying “Party until the cows come home” is true, then the party is over and the work is fixing to start here in our part of the world. This winter has been a wild one to say the least, we haven’t seen the ground since Dec. 12 as it has been covered under a blanket of much-needed snow. Our cows have proven that they are some hearty girls, grazing through the snow to munch on cornstalks and enjoying a bale of overly priced hay on the days when the snow got a little too deep or the wind blew a little too cold. As the saying goes, the cows came home, this past weekend and are getting settled into the calving lots waiting for the new cycle of life on the ranch to begin.

            This time of year is both exciting and worrisome. I seem to constantly be watching the weather for upcoming storms, watching expecting mothers from daylight until way past dark, and playing the dangerous game of bluffing or not. Calving season is stressful, its long days and longer nights. About the time you think everything is under control the feed tractor will go on a labor strike, or some hormonal bovine will decide that her neighbor’s calf needs her to be a mother more than her own baby does. Each day brings about new challenges, some that will end in victory, and others that will end in a bitter heartbreaking defeat. Like doctors, we ranchers are always practicing. We are constantly trying to learn how to improve, to make things better and make our operations more profitable.

            There is the great debate about when operations should calve. For me, the answer to this debate is very simple. Choose the calving date that fits your operation. I have friends that want to be done with calving before it is time for corn planting, and I have neighbors that don’t calve until May. No matter when you decide to calve there are going to be challenges. Winter calving can bring chilled calves and frozen ears, May calves can be smaller in the fall come weaning time. Whatever your calving style, you need it to fit your operation.

            Last year during calving, I got my fair share of “practice” in the calving barn. Mother nature decided to bless us with some rather cold weather to welcome our first calves. There was one particular night that my wife and I sorted every heavy bred heifer off of the rest and placed them into warm straw bedded stalls in the barn for the night. Weather seems to have a funny effect on expecting mothers, that barometer drops and so do the calves. By the end of that night, all of the stalls and the alley in the barn were filled with new mothers and their babes to wait out the brutal cold.

As ranchers, we are so dependent on the weather. Rain and snow grow grass and hay, but they can kill an entire calf crop in one storm event. I am always amazed at how smart those cows can be. Sometimes they will bed their calves down in places that are better than a barn for protection. On the other hand there are the select few that can’t seem to remember from one minute to the next which calf is theirs. I suppose that is what keeps this life interesting.

Whenever you calve, I wish you the best this calving season. May God bless you with kind mothers or fast feet. That’s all for this time, God bless and keep tabs on your side of the barbed wire.

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