In a calving frenzy

We had deep snow by mid-December and Lynn plowed neighbors'driveways. We moved the cows to fields closer to the house; grass was snowed under too deep to graze and we went to a full feeding of hay, losing about three weeks' worth of pasture.

Andrea's husband Jim got home from Mackay where he spent two weeks helping our son and daughter-in-law move from their place at Arco. They can now concentrate on getting their new place functional - fixing corrals and converting an old shed into a calving barn.

We fixed hydraulic hoses on our old White tractor and sent it to Michael and Carolyn, along with Christmas gifts for them and the grandkids.

Weather got colder (below zero), so we brought the 50 young cows up from the lower fields before Christmas. We didn't want to risk any calving ahead of schedule outdoors. We sorted off the 28 first-calf heifers to put in the maternity ward so we could walk through them at night.

Second-calvers went to the field below the lane, close at hand. A few days later, we brought the mature cows in and cut the first ones to calve. I made eartags (numbered the same as mama's brisket tags) and got the calving records up to date (due dates and sires) and the calving calendar put on the wall.

Our daughter Andrea's name is on that calendar in the February 4 square - her due date. Hopefully, most of the cows will have calved by then (only five are due later than that).

Andrea is such good help with calving. Since she's pregnant, we don't want her to overdo it. But, she insists on helping with feeding, checking the cows at night, helping suckle new calves and watering the pen cows. Her doctor says she can continue doing anything she feels comfortable doing, so we've quit fussing over her.

Calving All Hours Of The Day Our first calf arrived December 29. Andrea and Jim's heifer Rishira had a nice bull calf in the wee hours of morning. Another first calver, Shanandra, had a heifer that evening (we named it Shennanigan). Chub calved December 31, and that night it was below zero outside and only 10 degrees F in the barn. We were afraid the calf might get chilled before it could nurse, so we thawed some of our emergency supply of frozen colostrum and took a bottle out to feed the calf when it was about 45 minutes old. But, the lively little critter was already up and nursing.

By January 5 we were calving for real, with five calves that day (10 total). We tagged and dehorned the first batch, using a battery dehorner - handy to use in the barn or second-day pens.

By January 8, half our heifers had calved (14 of the 28). Most were good mothers but Brandywine was a little confused, bellowing and rooting her new calf, flipping it into the air and smashing it into the stall wall. We had to separate them and give the calf a bottle of colostrum. Then, we haltered and hobbled the heifer and put her in the head catcher to let the calf suck.

The next two days, we supervised the nursings in the barn stall, putting the calf with her every six hours and holding her halter rope so she couldn't ram him with her head. The calf quickly figured out the program and ran to nurse, and she was soon licking him and mooing at him, no longer so upset and aggressive. We were able to leave them together by the third day, and took the hobbles and halter off and put them together in a pen the day after that.

Problems With Heifers All of the heifers have calved quickly and easily except Higgins, who was taking too long - not because the calf was large, but because she was so worried about the calf in the next stall. She'd pace and wouldn't settle down and give birth to her own. Finally, after feet had been showing 111/42 hours, I intervened because part of the placenta was beginning to show.

We usually give a heifer an hour from the time feet appear (and most will deliver in that length of time without assistance), but this heifer had not been actively straining. When placenta starts to show, however, we get more concerned and try to deliver the calf soon, before it detaches and dies.

Higgins is a nervous heifer and I knew I wouldn't have much chance to sneak up behind her. When she laid down, I crept up and got the chain on one leg before she leapt up and took off. I could barely keep up with her as we flew around the pen. Jim came to my rescue and grabbed my chain handle so I could get in front of Higgins and slow her down. Then we were able to pull the calf.

At this writing (January 9) we have 25 calves. From the looks of the maternity ward (52 very soon-to-calve cows), it's going to be busy for awhile.