12 December 2016 – High of 28°, Low of 5° – Sunny and beautiful
We have been learning from Cowboy Dave and Linda about calving in the winter. On December 3rd, Linda went outside to check on the herd and discovered that it had grown by 1! She and Cowboy knew that they had 3 calves coming due this month, but they were expecting Frita to calve first. They kept Frita in the corral with some warm hay, expecting her to give birth any day. But LaVern surprised them by delivering early out in the pasture! The baby came a couple of weeks early and LaVern was not showing any signs of labor so Linda was quite surprised to see a beautiful red little bull underneath his beautiful big red mama in the cold winter morning!
Fortunately, LaVern is a sweet and gentle cow and Cowboy Dave and Linda were able to get her and baby up to the corral and into a shed for shelter. The little bull is so cute and they named him Vern, after his mother. We went over to help tag and band on the 5th of December. Our friend Matt, who is very strong just picked up the calf and held him like a baby and Cowboy Dave and Pilot Dave completed the tasks.
The 5th turned out to be a rather busy day as Frita finally decided to deliver her little bull. Cowboy and Linda named him Fred, and he had a much easier time of it being birthed in the nice warm barn shielded from the wind and cold.
To complete the trifecta, Frosty, the ornery old boss cow of the herd, held out for the coldest of nights to deliver her baby. You may remember from previous posts how Frosty is suspicious and refuses to be herded anywhere. We have spent several days this summer chasing her around pastures and on two separate occasions, this 1600lb lady leaped over a four-strand barbed wire fence to escape us. She must have known she was about to deliver because she hardly gave Cowboy Dave and Linda any trouble and walked herself right up and into the loafing shed. This was Friday afternoon, December 9th, and it was bitterly cold. The temperature was sliding into the single digits and the wind chill was already below zero. Sure enough, right as the sun was setting, Frosty delivered a little heifer – dubbed Dairy Queen. DQ got up right away and after about 5-10 minutes started nursing. She was so wet from birth and almost immediately covered with frost and shivering and shaking. We left her alone with her mother in the shelter and went inside to warm up. Cowboy said he would have to check on her in an hour or two to determine if she needed to be brought inside. This was not ideal since Frosty is so ornery and would not make it easy for us to separate her from her baby. She is a good mother though, and she licked and cleaned that baby right up. Before Pilot Dave and I returned to the camper we went with Cowboy to look at DQ and she was still covered in frost and shivering, but her head was up, her ears were responsive to noise and she was nursing. She and Frosty were in the warm loafing shed and that’s where they spent the night.
The next day, Pilot Dave and I got to tag the little Dairy Queen. Frosty had decided to leave her and go down to the salt lick and pick a fight with another cow, so we took advantage of the situation and I got to hold her down while Pilot Dave tagged her ear. She didn’t even struggle, and when she got up she let out the most pathetic little “Moo”. Linda heated up a towel in the dryer and Pilot Dave gave her a scrub down since she was still slightly wet from birth and covered in manure. I helped him grab her and I subsequently was covered in manure. Ahhh…the glamorous life.
Calves are the most amazing creatures. Yesterday we went to see how everyone was doing. Frosty had Dairy Queen laying in the grass in the sun and everyone was doing well. Fred was running around and headbutting Keystone, who was born in October. Lavern was laying in the woods with Vern right next to her and when we went to check on her, Keystone and Fred decided to come see what we were up to.
Cowboy Dave and Linda aren’t expecting any more calves until springtime. We are so grateful to them for letting us participate in their ranching activities and see what we may be in for once we get our herd going. They are excellent stewards of their animals.