Diane Prather: Calving season is here

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Diane Prather

There’s nothing more disrupting to a sleep routine than calving season.

The number of cows we calve out is minuscule to that of a big ranching operation, and yet not getting enough sleep for even a night or two has a diverse effect on my writing endeavors.

My brain just seems to shut down.

This week we had to check a cow during the night that we had the rain, blowing snow, and cold temperatures (she ended up having twins) so my sleep schedule got off big time.

As a result, although I have some writing projects in the works, I just haven’t been able to focus on them. So I decided to write about something that’s fresh on my mind — calving season.

When you read the following, please keep in mind that every member of the ranch family helps out during this hectic time of year.

Calving season means that:

• There’s coffee brewing at all hours.

• Boots, socks, and coverall pockets are full of hay and straw.

• Hay and straw tracked into the house mean more sweeping and vacuuming (when there’s time).

• The crock-pot is used more than other cooking utensils.

• Lights are left on at the barn all night long.

• Lights are on at the vet hospital at all hours.

• Coveralls are apt to be covered with slime, mud, and manure.

• Cows decide to calve at the most unhandy times.

• Checking cows, especially heifers, goes on every two hours.

• Calves are stretched out, snoozing in the morning sun, as their mamas eat breakfast.

• There are apt to be calving “surprises” when the barometer is low.

• Calves have to be checked daily for signs of scours, pneumonia, and enterotoxemia.

• Homework is sometimes done in the calving barn.

• Calves born out on the feedlot during a snowstorm have to be taken to the barn.

• Calf pullers are kept where they’re easy to find.

• There’s lots of laundry piled up, the house is in need of cleaning, and everybody’s too tired to care.

• Family members go to sleep while watching television.

• There’s often a calving “surprise” (before calves are due) that prompts ranchers to get everything ready.

• All too often a cow has trouble calving when the rancher’s wife is home alone.

• Neighboring ranchers are always there to help.

• Calves can be seen running across the feedlot or playing king of the hill on a manure pile.

• Everyone on the ranch recognizes the signs that a cow is getting ready to calve.

• There are times when a person can’t help but chuckle, like watching the mother of a brand new calf chase a skunk.

• Sometimes even the tamest cows get that glazed look in their eyes when calving; it means instinct has taken over so watch out.

• There’s often an adrenaline rush when a calf and its mother are saved from a difficult birthing.

• There’s the satisfaction of looking over a new calf crop and realizing that the new bull has passed desired traits on to his offspring.

• The day will come when there are only six cows left to calve.

Ranching families experience both sadness and joy during calving season, and just when they think they’ve seen it all, there’s an incredible moment.

These families are compassionate. They work hard and take pride in their cattle. And no matter what the current calving season brings, they will be ready to take it on again next year. Hats off to the ranching families who raise our beef.

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