Thursday, March 2, 2017

A New Calf Crop

It’s calving time. Gone are the long winter evenings with time to read and to fall asleep in front of the wood stove. I must like winter because I hate to see February fade to March. March is too close to spring and I don't feel ready for all the work that spring brings to the ranch.       

The weather has been brutal. In my twenty-six years on the ranch, I’ve had a newborn calf in my bathtub only twice, and once was this week. The little fellow came on a particularly bitter night and Mark found him just in time to get him back to the house and a warm tub for a quick thaw. He was fine and sucking the cow by early afternoon.

Usually if a calf needs help, a visit to the barn is all that’s needed. Our calving barn is the oldest building on the ranch still in use. It’s got a lot of character, but could use an upgrade. Sand sifts through the window over the sink, and the heavy sliding door opens and closes only if you really mean it. The door knob into the warm room won’t catch and the carpet remnants on the floor need replaced. This year’s maintenance consisted of a new recycled rope release on the head catch and a new recycled hose reaching from the sink to the corral outside. Those two repairs and a load of straw in the straw room and we were good to go.

But the barn feels good. It’s functional. The warm room is warm. There’s a fridge for extra milk and hot water for washing up. It’s soothingly quiet and dimly lit. The wind can be howling, but inside the cattle are cozy in their freshly strawed stalls. Underfoot are three half-wild barn cats.

We do all we can to promote our momma cows calving naturally outside, but if they need help, the barn is a life saver.   

There's always the occasional dystocia problem, but weather, mostly wind, is a concern. We’re trying out a new weather app that shows wind speed, temperature, and precipitation chance and accumulation by the hour. It said it was going to snow at 11:00 and sure enough it started snowing at 10:55. Tonight we loved to see it was 29 degrees and “felt like” 29 degrees, which meant no wind!   

I posted a photo of the barn on my new Instagram account. It’s like a blog, only none of that annoying stuff to read - just a photo with a line or two of caption. We went to an agriculture seminar where the speaker urged us to reach out to consumers to tell the story of ranching. Who better to combat the anti-agriculture misinformation presented through social media? It's what I'm attempting with this blog but it's always been more about my artistic proclivities.

I can show you reach out. If you want real food you can't beat nutrient dense beef. If you're concerned about industrial agriculture, let me show you a 5th generation tradition. If you think ranchers don't embrace animal welfare, follow Mark around during calving season. 

coaxing him out of the barn

more coaxing

shelter for cats and cows

find us on instagram at prattcattle


  1. Oh, so sweet! Thanks for sharing this.

    Hang in there with the long hours and cold temps.

  2. Always an enjoyable read! Pratt Livestock is a prime example of outstanding animal husbandry and agricultural practices. Thanks for being such a great advocate!