Thursday, March 8, 2012

First Calf

Our first calf came down to the feedground with his mother today.  He was bucking and jumping, happy to be free after being cooped up inside for nine months.  In spite of having seen many thousands of new calves, this calf brought a smile to my face.

This one was likely born early yesterday.  His mother would have hidden him away – probably in that field of tall wildrye - until he was old enough to travel.  It was only ten above when he was born, but he obviously had a good mother.  She would have licked him off thoroughly, and given him encouraging words until he found her udder.  With a dry coat and a belly full of milk he could stand the cold.

But it appears that the cold weather has passed again.  It warmed up to 48o today, and the forecast is for moderate temperatures for the next week

I still had some last-minute tasks to accomplish before calving gets serious.  The first was to remove the hay mower from the calving shed where it was stored for the winter.  The chains had been on the tires of the little John Deere loader tractor, and they will tear up the ground as it thaws, so I pulled them off before I ran down to the shed.  But this tractor didn’t have enough traction in the little bit of soft snow.  I had to go back and get a bigger tractor.  Then I brought up a fresh bale of straw to bed up the shed.

I’d been watching the cows, judging how close they were to calving, and had guessed that the first calf would come tomorrow.  My son will be here for the weekend, and we’ll start sorting heavies to put in the calving field. 

The cows are up west, two miles from the shed.  They are not much of a concern – especially in this weather.  But you never know when a cow or calf will need help, and you never know for sure when the weather will turn bad again.  A wolf can get into them wherever they are, but a guy feels a little better if those new calves are closer to the house.

The heifers are a mile down east, and I for sure want them here near the shed.  These girls are just two years old and bearing their first calves.  They haven’t attained their full growth yet, and are more likely to need assistance.  Having never been responsible for a calf before, they are less likely to be as attentive as an older cow.  It pays to watch them more closely.

This first calf signals that calving season has officially begun.  For most of the year the cattle are pretty much on their own, but for the next two months our focus will be on watching these cattle for any signs of problems, and doing whatever we can to assure that this year’s calf crop gets off to a good start.

I looked over the heifers when I fed them this morning, and again at noon and just before dark.  Now I’ll be checking them again first thing in the morning.  This will be the pattern for all the rest of March and April.

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