As the sun set in the west, my husband and I headed to the corral and caught our horses. We saddled up and trotted to the calving lot, snow dusting my saddle and rabbit fur hat. The current 16 degrees is expected to drop tonight and a cold wind from the south is predicted. We gathered the heifers one by one pushing them along as the cows dropped back. We took them to the horse corrals where they can be close at hand the check in the night. Two heifers were sorted off into the cow barn to fresh stalls with straw bedding. These were in the first stages of calving. I left my horse tied in the barn (lucky him, out of the snow) in case something else needs to be brought in throughout the night.
We do this when the weather gets bitter cold. Even under the protection of a windbreak, sub-freezing temperatures can freeze a new-born calf before the mother even has a chance to lick it dry. On nights such as this (and the next few to come), everything that starts to calve will go in a stall in the barn. We bring in the heifers because they’re about like teenaged girls. I was one once, and I was crazy, and if you told me to do something I threw a fit. Trying to bring a heifer in horseback in the middle of the night mid-calving is about like trying to get a teenage girl to quit texting her boyfriend. Thus we keep them close and already in a corral. All we have to do is move them down the alleyway into the barn. Don’t worry, our corrals have wind protection too.
This is also good for the heifers because we check them on foot by walking through them calmly, slowly, and quietly. They get accustom to people on foot and helps them become more tame in the end.
The worst combination is when we’re in a calving boom, getting 20+ calves a day, and the cold snap hits. Its times like these where a cow goes in the barn to calve, cleans her calf and it nurses awhile, 4 or 5 hours later they are placed back under the tree row (calves can survive very cold temperatures if they are dry and out of the wind with warm milk in their bellies). The stall is quickly cleaned and re-bedded for the next one. We have 12 stalls, and sometimes that is just not enough.
Some places in the world, cattle don’t have to calve in the cold. I’m sure those places deal with issues we don’t too. I don’t know that I would trade. As much as I sometimes dislike the snow, I have to be thankful for the moisture it’s putting in our pastures. After the drought in 2012, I’ll never take a snow for granted again.
Here is a crazy Australian “enjoying” her first blizzard. They deal with extreme heat in Australia. She kept telling me she couldn’t feel her face.