“Go back to bed, Mom. I will take the next check for you.” Sweet words from my son. He was referring to whom was taking the next night check of the heifers. For the 2-year-old heifers, this is their first calf. Calving heifers is time and labor intensive because, like a lot of first time mothers, they are unsure what the heck they are supposed to be doing. We check them, at a minimum, of every two hours around the clock. If something is going on (we have one in the shed that is trying to calve) we check them more often than that. It means a lot of sleepless hours for everyone.
Trent, our oldest son, is here helping us. It is wonderful. He is young, likes staying up late, jogs to get gates, jumps over fences instead of having to climb them, and can carry 3-4 bags of mineral for me when I’m loading them in the morning to fill feeders while doing chores. This means my number of trips in to the van trailer to haul out bags is greatly diminished. He has made my life pretty easy. He has taken the first several checks each night and letting me sleep several hours uninterrupted. Last night he took the cake by telling me to go back to bed when it was my turn to check. What a good kid. He came in at 1:45 a.m. to give me an update on what was going on as he was heading home for a few hours of sleep before chore time. He had a heifer that had just calved and one still waiting.
I headed to the barn at about 3:30 a.m. to assess the situation. The heifer that had calved before he left had her calf up and going, and the calf was sucking when I got down there. A great start. I headed down to check the drop bunch and to check the other heifer he had put in the shed down below. Walking into the corral I spotted eyes on the ground down in the corner of the corral. Rats. There was a calf on the ground, and he had two heifers fighting over him. Double rats. Then imagine my surprise when I got down there and found they weren’t fighting over him, but that two heifers had calved in the same corner. Uh-Oh. Now to straighten out the mess as both heifers were owning both calves.
I got the shed opened up, both calves drug in, the heifers rounded up, and started trying to match the right momma up with the right calf. I got things figured out and ran to the house to make a couple of bottles of colostrum as those babies were a little chilly and I wanted to get something warm in their bellies ASAP. I rubbed them down good with some towels as I fed them, got them on their feet, and now with some warm milk in their bellies, they took off looking for some more nourishment. All was well.
The heifer that had been in the shed for a few hours had finally settled in enough to start calving so I went outside and camped on the feedbunks to give her some time. At 4:15 a.m. she had feet out so did another walk-through of the drop bunch, checked on some pairs we had put out yesterday morning, went back up and checked the calf that had been born a few hours previously, and ran to the closest house for a drink of water.
I headed back out about 4:45 to check my patient, snuck in through the other barn, cracked open the walk-through door, and there was the heifer with her hind end facing me, chewing her cud, and a calf out to the hips. I tip-toed through the straw to try to help her out and she came flying up, spun around with the calf still hanging out, ran me up on the panels, and then rammed them a few extra times to let me know she wasn’t kidding. The calf didn’t shake loose. There he still hung, alive, but not liking the situation one bit. I snuck back over the panels to try again. Nope. She was having none of it. Back over the panels into an empty jockey pen I went. Now what? Ugh!
I started crawling from pen to pen to try to get back close to the walk-through door to see if I could sneak out and call the house for some help. I got to the pen closest to the door, but she wasn’t about to let me out the door. I crawled back the way I had come, and then started crawling over panels the other direction to get to another door. I made it past the alley where she was, over the last panel, and out the side door. We have no cell service in the barn, and have no cell service close to the barn. It becomes a game of trying to find the spot in the corral where your phone will work. I had just started playing the two steps forward and one step back trying to get some bars on my phone when I heard a barn door open in another corral.
“PINE! HELP ME!” I yelled, not ever thinking that I might actually spook my poor husband. Yep– he still likes me. He came running to the gate, I suppose thinking I was hurt, and only shook his head when he saw that I was standing by the barn door. “Sorry, Honey!” I explained. Then told him my predicament. There is nothing a rancher likes to hear more at 5:15 a.m. than that there is a heifer on the fight with a hip-locked calf and you can’t get in the pen without getting ran back out. We went in to assess the situation.
Divine intervention. The heifer was back down and straining, and fortunately her hind end (and thus the calf) was right up against the panel. A rope around the calf’s front legs, a couple of strong pulls by Pine, and that poor baby was out and looking no worse for the wear. The heifer, by this point, had made a bee line for the other end of the alley and was lying down at the other end. Pine crawled in, pulled the calf down to her so she could get a good look at, and lick at it, and he made it back to the panel with her hunting him full steam. Nasty thing.
Good news is that she had calmed down considerably by the time we tagged her calf later this morning. They are both settled in to a jug pen to hang out for a while longer before we turn them out and put them down in a north lot for some more further watching.
“Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears.” — Arthur Koestler
Big words, Arthur. I bet your actions would be to run up a fence if a mad heifer was chasing you. Thanks for your thoughts, though.
Until next time… JARW