Black: Habits for safe calving

Through the years, I have heard story after story of accidents related to calving season. I have researched the subject with a couple of guys at the sale barn, a purebred breeder and a retired cow vet. I came up with this list of safe calving habits:

  1. Far and away the most common tale I hear has to do with looping the OB chain around your wrist then looping the other end around the calf’s foot. This is called “Loop-a-Dope.” The scenario is: the mama cow rises or escapes before the baby is delivered and drags you, the midwife, across two sections of cactus, mud, cattails, bone yards, net wire fence and/or mine fields. A tip to the wise: let the loose end of the chain hang loose. Regardless of what you think, the uterus will not swallow it.

  2. Another frequent calving catastrophe involves protective mothers who interfere with your postnatal efforts to tag, vaccinate, treat or otherwise molest the newborn. Alas, this practice has been labeled “Trick-a-Dope.” Factors in play seem to be the innocent belief that humans are faster, quicker, stronger or smarter than the cow. It is a symptom of the mentality of the cowboy, who honestly believes he is faster, quicker, stronger or smarter than the cow, and is a slow learner. Advice: Let your wife do it.

  3. This calving disaster is the result of extremist cattlemen who attempt to grab the newborn calf and drag him into the pickup before the protective mama cow can intervene. It is known as “Whack-A-Dope.” It is amazing how fast, quick, strong and smart new mamas really are! In her wake she leaves abrasions, contusions, fractures, broken hydraulic lines, concussions, amputations, explosions, ejections, side door indentations, warranty violations, totaled vehicles and unconscious operators. Solution: Reserve the emergency room ahead of time and have 911 already dialed before you lean out the door.

4. Add ropes, spurs, ice and four-on-the-floor gear shifts to the story and the possibilities of bodily harm are endless. Obviously, “Rope-A-Dope.”

Conclusion: In spite of the risks we take, our efforts to help the newborns and handle their new mothers with care remain heroic. We are on the front lines where beef begins. So gird your loins, you knights of the calving barn, stand tall, keep your wrist out of the loop, take a deep breath and dive right in. What could possibly go wrong?

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