I have mentioned before that “Spring” is pretty fickle in Montana. It can be 65 above or 10 below on any day between the first of March and the first of June.
On the ‘official’ beginning of spring this year, it got to 55o. A few days later it is 30o with a fresh 6” of wet snow.
Last week we began calving in earnest, and cut in some 40 head of heavies to the calving field. Today we began turning out those new pairs into a bigger field where they can maintain a more adequate “social distance” to avoid an accumulation of mud and manure, and to minimize transmission of disease.
There were 19 pairs in this first sweep of the field we call “the rocks” into which we turn newer pairs soon after they calve. We pushed these into the “bridge trap” to sort. One calf needed to be caught for the application of a band to his testicles.
I was riding the Blaze colt, from whom I have done very little roping. He had been quite a challenge to break, and I still wasn’t certain about his reaction to throwing a lariat. But he has settled in nicely, and handled well to catch that calf.
One must be careful when turning out new pairs to be sure that every calf follows his mother across the bridge and into the new field. We paired them out slowly and deliberately. But most of the calves were a couple of weeks old, and were solidly following their mamas.
Then we swung around and cut 14 new pairs out of the calving field, and into the now-empty “rocks” field.
Light snow was blowing in our face the whole time, but the temperature was hovering around freezing – not particularly unpleasant weather. Two cows were obviously going into labor, so we pushed them on down into the calving shed. There’s no reason for a new calf to be born into a snowbank when we have an empty shed with a nice straw-covered floor. It’s bad enough to be rudely thrust from a weightless, 103o environment out onto a cold hard ground, when we can temper it with warm, dry straw.
And we elected to spread more of that warm, dry straw out into the field for the rest of the heavies.
There had been one calf born earlier in the day up on the hillside in the calving field. Once a calf has dried off and had a good suckle, he can stand a lot of cold. But there was a second cow nearby. I called Eric.
“It’s snowing too hard to see if that second cow has a calf,” I said.
Eric was just heading out to throw off the late feed for those heavies. He soon radioed back that she had a new calf.
I rummaged around in the glove-boxes for a pair of rubber-palmed gloves, jumped on the quad, and headed down to the shed to tie onto the sled. The calf lay quietly in the sled, is mother followed along easily, and now we had our fourth calf for the day, safe and warm in the shed.