Craig Beginning around January, the conversation among ranchers inevitably turns to when to begin calving.
Calving season times vary from ranch to ranch. For example, Aric Gerber said that he and sister Stacy Gray, of Craig, are about 75 percent done with calving, having started Jan. 20. They chose to calve early to allow time for extra growth in their bull calves and to beat mud season.
For Ron and Shirley Lawton, who ranch north of Craig, calving season will begin about March 20, when the weather may be warmer.
Ron laughed when he repeated a quote he said he got from Dr. Neil McCandless years ago.
"People ought to wait until June to calve, and then they wouldn't have to fight the weather," he said, repeating the quote.
No matter when calving season begins, it's one of the busiest times of the year for ranchers, and since the work goes on night and day, it's one of the most tiring times, too.
There aren't many people who know as much about calving as Marlys Myers. This year marks her 60th calving season at the Gilmar Ranch in the Williams Fork and Hamilton area.
Myers said she was about 3 years old when her parents, Ralph and Edith Reeve, lived on the ranch. In 1948, Myers and her husband, Gilbert, took over the ranch, raising Hereford cattle that Myers said are "the best in the West."
The ranch produces registered Herefords to this day.
Since Gilbert died in 2001, Myers has kept the ranch going with the help of her sons, Don and Ted.
The Gilmar Ranch starts its calving season the beginning of February so they'll "be pretty much done by March," Myers said. She said that gives time to get the calves going and allows them time to gain some weight.
Cows that are ready to calve are sorted off and put in a barn. After each calf has its weight recorded and is tagged and tattooed, the calf and the mother are turned into an open shed area until it's time to turn the herd out on summer pasture.
The tattoos are important because the herd is registered. With each tattoo number, Myers records pertinent information, such as birth and weaning weights.
From the calves, the ranch raises its own replacement cows, heifers, bulls and steers. The registered heifers and bulls are sold to other ranchers.
Myers said many of the heifers are sold to ranches in the Steamboat Springs area.
This year, Myers is excited about two new herd bulls that she purchased from Largent and Sons Ranch in Kaycee, Wyo.
She said she know where every cow in the herd came from. She can remember each cow's mother and father, and what kind of calves each cow had.
"I know more about their ancestry than my own," she laughed.
Although Myers now relies on her sons to do most of the season's work, she used to check cows day and night, help deliver calves, vaccinate and all of the other work connected with calving.
"Ranchers get really tired," she said.
But, for all the hard work and sleepless nights, there are rewards for the rancher during calving season. Among them, there's the satisfaction of watching a newborn calf get up and nurse, and helping a first-calf heifer have a healthy calf.
Myers would undoubtedly agree. But, there's another reward for her that makes calving season and raising calves worthwhile. The people she's met when selling the grown-up, registered Herefords.
"We still have friends we've met through selling cattle," she said. "We've met so many nice people. Ranch people are special."