Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It Must be March

It’s raining calves here on the ranch. Mark has a running tally and tags the newcomers when they are one day old. 

The cows expecting their first or second calf are in one field, the veteran mothers in another. Mark keeps a close watch on the heifers, the neophytes, but lets them all calve on their own for the most part. He walks a thin line, letting them do what nature has equipped them so well for, and also being around should they need assistance. If there’s a problem, it’s most likely a mal-presentation, a leg back, head down, etc. In these cases we fetch a horse and walk the cow into a nearby corral and haul her to the barn for help.

We have two sets of twins so far. They come at the front end of calving season, arriving early like human twins will. The cow is okay nursing two for a while until they get too big, then we’ll steal one to graft on another cow that loses a calf as the season progresses. We keep the twins and their moms in the corral so they get extra feed. In closer quarters away from the larger herd it’s also easier for them to keep track of each other.

Jesse and I arrived with two trucks to the feed ground today and found Mark with a grin on his face. He had been out checking cows on his 4-wheeler. “Guess what I saw this morning?” I thought he was going to tell us about a coyote or eagle scavenging on the calving ground. Instead he told us that while making his early rounds, and while the frost was settled all across the sagebrush to the east, and there wasn't a cow in sight . . . all of a sudden a shaft of steam burst upwards out of the brush. A new life! He had caught that cool moment from a totally different visual vantage point - when the calf slips from the birth canal surrounded with warm amniotic fluid and breathes its first breath.

It's happening on and off all day and night for a while. A mini-drama in a world of cows.

The mother of the twins, not so sure about entering the barn

getting used to two

this one is taking too long and might need help

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