From Pipi’s Pasture: Only 2 more cows to go!
After two months of calving season here at Pipi’s Pasture, it’s almost over — as far as the actual calving, that is. (We still have to keep an eye on the calves and brand before “turn out.”) But we’re down to two cows — just two more to calve! When it comes to the chore involved with calving, the cow-checking is probably the most draining so when that’s finished, I’m grateful.
We have just a small herd which is nothing compared to the herds in other ranches in the area. I can’t begin to imagine calving out 150 or more heifers! It’s not that we haven’t experienced calving out larger numbers of cows — both with our immediate family and when I was growing up on the ranch at Morapos.
When I was growing up, for example, we had a large herd of Hereford cattle. Calving was early in the season — maybe February. Dad put the cows in the corral, and every night he saddled the horse, picked out the cows that he thought might calve that night, and “barned” them on horseback. The cows were put in a “springer barn,” a long barn with several stalls. (My brother, Duane Osborn, still uses the barn today.)
In those days, women did not help with the calving operation, so I’m not sure how many times Dad checked the cows at night. However, as the years passed and we had cows of our own, I helped, especially with the cow-checking.
Here at Pipi’s Pasture, there is only so much space in the corral so when calving season starts, it is reserved for heifers and cows that might have twins or that have big bags that require a little attention so that calves get stated nursing. Otherwise, the rest of the cows are left in the pasture and put in the corral if needed.
I have checked the pasture during the night twice this season. I wrote about the first time (when I witnessed the calf playing). The second time came when a cow decided to calve on a cold, damp, windy night just awhile back. It was midnight or so when I waded through mud to get to the calf. The mom had him washed off, and he was probably ready to get up. I stuck my fingers in his mouth, and when he nursed on them, I decided to come back to the house for a bottle of warm milk.
Another trip through the mud, and, with the help of another cow and two calves, flashlight aimed at the calf, I fed it two pints. My theory always is that the milk helps the calf “get going.” Sure enough! The calf had enough of me; he was working hard at getting up. I went back to the house, rinsed the bottle, buried myself under the blankets, and satisfied that the calf was just fine, fell asleep. That’s an example of out-in-the-pasture checking.
Most of the checking I do, usually twice a night, involves the corral. I get up, put clothes on over my nightwear, coats, boots, and gloves and grab a flashlight. It’s a relatively short walk to the corral, and since we leave lights on all night, it’s pretty easy to check the cows.
“I’m pretty sure it isn’t feed time,” they seem to communicate to one another.
“I wonder what she’s up to now.”
When I find that none of the cows are calving, I head back to the house.
But after getting up at night a lot, I sometimes get confused as to whether I’m coming or going. I’m surprised that I haven’t wakened up to find myself fully dressed in outside garb.
However, things are looking up. There are just two more cows to go…
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Michael Mathers’s name.