Calving season is here. Photo by Sage Faulkner
BY SAGE FAULKNER
Our “official” first day of calving is March 10. This is calculated by taking the date we turned bulls in with cows last summer and adding normal gestation. But, anyone who has ever been around a cow, pays attention a little earlier than needed, because cows rarely follow anything official. That said, my first check yesterday had two first-calf heifers with new babies, right on schedule. After watching, I could tell one wasn’t thriving. I inched in closer, trying to gauge mama and baby. She let me come close and as I reached to rub the baby I could feel the ice cold chill. She was a big baby for a first calver, and mama was sure trying, lowing to her and licking her in the same spot. I trotted back home and got the feed truck, driving as close as I could to her location without hitting the deep mud. I risked dropping some feed for mama in exchange for picking baby up, breaking through the light ice as I trudged to the truck with one eyeball on mama and one on the ground so I could hopefully keep unstuck and not drop the baby.
I managed to get her lifted into the truck and and then inside the house by the stove. I started rubbing her down and began getting her dried off. I thought about taking her picture as she lay next to my stove, covered up in blankets and warming up. She looked awful cute. And, then, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I didn’t want a picture, if she didn’t make it, that memory of the calves I have lost over the years made my heart ache. It is a tricky time for me, intervening. Mother Nature usually knows best, but sometimes things just do not go right. I took the picture anyway, saying a prayer for an outcome that was best for her and her mama. I got a little milk in her and when she tried to move on her own it was time to return her to mama.
When I set her down in the bottom pasture as close as I could get to where she had been born, mama came running. So, too, did everything else. I called everything else to the pens so that mama and baby could figure things out.
After an hour of talking to her baby and licking her, and facing up every time baby tried to nurse, I threatened to hobble her indefinitely. Maybe the tone in my voice made her rethink her position. Maybe baby figuring out mama doesn’t kick if she goes at a teat from the back was the real cure. Either way, baby started nursing, I growled every time mama kicked, and then the rest of her maternal instincts kicked in and baby finished up without any more trouble.
It is too early to feel like we did good. Visit with me in two months, I’ll either feel good about the season or have my head hanging a little. I don’t think there is much that is more humbling than calving, or much of a more miraculous thing to get to witness.