This was originally posted in April of, 2011. Since then I’ve learned a lot about caving (and I know I’ll learn more). I’ll be on night duty again this calving season. Night duty is awesome, though, because it’s quiet and peaceful. I hope you enjoy this tale from calving. In the next couple weeks it will be time to bring our herd in, pour them, sort off the first calf heifers from the cows, and get ready to start seeing babies. Yay for babies! We shouldn’t start seriously calving until April 15th. But there’s usually someone who comes early!
I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to share this story with y’all. It’s a perfect example of ranch life and a perfect example of how every day is different. It’s also sad, but so is this life we live. Mother Nature, while she can have a sense of humor, can be cruel and unusual and often just plain rotten.
It was like any other winter day had been- cold, about 10 degrees, and snow was wafting around. I can’t say it was “snowing” per say, because if it were snowing, we’d not be able to see our hand in front of our faces! But there were snowflakes falling from the sky.
It was late afternoon and I had just sat down to eat a big bowl of nachos when the phone rang. I was asked to run to Granny’s and grab the chains and calf puller. So I dropped what I was doing, put on my coveralls (over my pj pants, of course), shoved my feet into some muck boots and headed out the door pulling a jacket and skull cap on in my haste.
I ran to Granny’s, she handed me the chains, and cruised to the barn to grab the calf puller. As I pulled into the saddle horse trap, I could see Jewel- my bottle baby from two summers ago, off by herself. She’d be a first calf heifer- which is a two year old heifer, calving for the first time. Heifers are often in need of help when they calve the first time, because they don’t know what’s happening. If you’ve ever witnessed a dog or cat give birth for the first time, they often act surprised and don’t know what to do.
Bud called me on the phone and asked that I please wait outside the gate, as he wanted to get done feeding hay so the cows would leave us be while we pulled Jewel’s calf.
About 5 minutes later he was done, so I headed in.
She was having a calf alright. But he was coming out backwards. That’s never good a sign. So Bud starts shucking layers down to his t-shirt and cap; meantime, I get on the phone with his dad, asking him how he needed to move the calf to help it get born. Up until now, Wayne Leo, another one of the four DX brothers, had done the majority of the calving, and if he needed help Zach was around. Well, Zach and Wayne Leo are working in town now, so that leaves Bud and myself to do this. As I’m getting instructions from Big Wayne to relay to Bud, he says “I’m gonna need your help”. My first thought was, “awesome. I’ve always wanted to do something like this!” And then I thought, “oh not so much-in this weather though!” So off goes my coat, and my sweatshirt, leaving me in Carhartt bib coveralls, and a camisole. Yes, that’s it! The plus side is it’s warm inside a cow! I’m not going to paint a more specific picture for you folks. Some of you don’t want those details, I’m sure.
I dive in and push the little guy forward while Bud tries to get one of his fingers between a toe. Since the calf was being born backward, feet first, there’s a proper way to get it it arranged to be pulled. We managed to get it arranged, and Bud gets the toe, is able to maneuver the foot and we pull it out. But it’s too late. It’s still-born.
Both of us think we’re done, so we head to the house to clean up; I phone Zach and ask him about her, and he says that since she didn’t get up, to head back out with some cake and hay and watch her for a bit. I get back out there and what do you know, she’s having another calf. Luckily for me, Bud headed back out about 5 minutes after I did to check on her and we pulled a second calf. This one was coming out right, but was still-born also. Next time, we’ll automatically check for twins. Sometimes, you learn lessons the hard way.
You always feel bad when this happens- especially to a heifer. It’s so much work for them, and then to have it end poorly makes no one happy.
So, there you have it folks. Lessons learned while calving in 10 degrees in Carhartts, and a camisole.
Happy Trails, and if you’re calving, well, Happy Calving!
If you have a story you’d like to share for Tuesday’s tales, please contact me.