9 April 2021 – Cloudy and 40 degrees
Do you want some excitement in your life? Need a little more drama? I recommend starting your own small herd of cattle and don’t forget to breed at least a few heifers just to make sure things stay interesting. Want to keep things super spicy? Try all this in a mountain environment just to make sure the weather keeps you on your toes.
Yep, we got another foot of snow. It was in the 70s for two days and then the weather forecasters said we would probably get 1-3 inches of snow, but they were only a little off. It snowed, and snowed, and snowed. The heavy, wet, difficult to shovel and nearly impossible to walk in kind of snow.
Let’s rewind a bit and enjoy the memory of those lovely, warm spring days (just a few days ago.) Fortunately, two of our cows decided to take advantage of the warm weather and calve their babies within 16 hours of one another. First, just before sunset, Triple Stix headed off into the corner of the maternity ward, turned around three times, laid down and had a big red heifer calf. The girl was up and nursing in about thirty minutes. This is Triple Stix third calf and she has always had an easy time delivering and is a great mom.
We named her calf Lucille, like Lucille Ball, because of her beautiful red coat. Also her mom, Triple Stix is Tag #111, and Lucille has three L’s…lll. I think maybe we’re reaching, but we’re tired here so cut us some slack!
The next morning, the Dirty Dozen (Tag #112) walked off into the tall grass, laid down and had the first bull calf of the season. He is another big, red calf and because we call his mom Dozen, we changed one letter to name him Dozer….Bull Dozer. I know, reaching again.
Dave and I were riding high. Two healthy calves in a short period of time and we were so proud of the work we had previously accomplished reuniting Pi with Fatz. The weather was great, the cows were all lounging peacefully in the sun. We spent the day relaxed and happy as well. Then…..we called the cows back to the maternity ward where we feed them in the evening and can easily access all of them for night checks to see if anyone may need assistance if calving. We called them, and yes, they do come when we call them, and they all came ambling in, four calves in tow. Wait, we have five calves! Where is number 5?
Of course it was little Pi. Her mom came back without her so we drove the Mule out to the field and found her lying in the grass, panting heavily and barely able to stand up. She was clearly very sick. Dang it!
Dave picked her up and rode in the back of the Mule, carrying her back up to the barnyard. We had a calf die of pneumonia a few years ago, and this is exactly the kind of symptoms that Pi was displaying. We grabbed our calving kit and took her temperature, which was 104.6. Normal calf temperature is 101.5 so she did have a fever and that is also a sign of pneumonia. We decided to give her a shot of antibiotics. We did this and as the evening set in, she cooled off and her panting seemed to subside a bit. Then her mom came over and Pi struggled to her feet and went to nursing. We checked on her every hour or so and she seemed to be resting and breathing like normal.
The next morning, after a long and restless night, Dave and I watched her and while she was a little wobbly, she got up and nursed again. Then she perked right up, just like the other calves she started bucking and running around, frolicking as healthy calves do in the early morning. We were quite pleased by this and thought she would be best off with her mom and the herd, although we resolved to check on her multiple times during the day.
It was warm again, in the mid-70s, and as the afternoon heat set in we saw her go back and lie in the tall grass on the hill. We checked her several times and she seemed to be okay, so I went ahead with my day which was a plan to go to an optometrist appointment in town. Dave stayed behind and kept close watch on everyone. When I got to town, Dave sent me a text and said he was worried about Pi. He took her temperature and it was 105. She could not get up. I said I would come right home, and we should move her to the barn where it is cool and we can give her some more medicine.
Somehow Dave was able to evade Momma Fatz and pick up that 60 pound calf and put her in his lap and drove the Mule back to the barn, all on his own. By the time I got home, she was in the cool barn and we gave her some medicine and kept her cool. We decided to keep her in the barn and bring her mom in with her for the next few days. This is easier said than done after all the drama we had with Fatz earlier. The best thing we could do was bring in another cow for company, and that was easy to do by luring another expecting heifer, Cupid, into the corral using cowcake.
Of course, that evening it began to snow, and snow and snow. We were glad to have that sick little calf inside, and she seemed to find some more strength after cooling off and another round of medicine. Her mom and Cupid weren’t too happy about being penned up, so we kept them calm with obscene amounts of fresh, dry hay. The next morning, Pi seemed mostly fine. She nursed, and while still wobbly, she bounded around the barn stall a bit. We tried to shovel a place in the corral so the penned up cows could come outside and enjoy the sunshine, but dang that snow was hard to get rid of. Of course Fatz came out and bulldozed her way through the deepest drifts and little Pi kept getting stuck and high-centered. The other calves out in the maternity ward were acting like kids on a snow-day, running and jumping in the thick heavy snow.
At this point we realize that Pi is going to need a lot of TLC and patience. We pushed the two big cows back into the barn pen and Dave carried the calf back inside. They would just have to stay inside until the snow melted enough for her to get around.
This is the bovine-roller-coaster that is calving. And we are such a small operation, I cannot imagine these ranchers that have hundreds of calves! God Bless them because it is rarely easy and while there is a lot of joy in seeing the fruits of your labor, it is really upsetting when it doesn’t turn out the way it should.
After the last few days and several rounds of antibiotics, Pi seems to be recovering a bit. I hate to write that for fear of what may be coming next, but we finally let her, Fatz, and Cupid out of the corral this morning. Most of the snow is gone and we thought we could keep them contained in the Maternity Ward which is just a few acres. The temperatures are cooler which bodes well for the pneumonia problem.
When we let them out, Pi took off running and bucking. She went right to the barbed wire at the edge of the maternity ward where she could see the rest of the herd and four healthy calves bounding around. She squirted right through the barbed wire and off to play with her cousins. We decided we couldn’t contain her so we let the two big cows back with the herd as well. As the big cows grazed, the five babies ran and played, headbutting each other in play-battle, sprinting around and around the rest of the herd.
Finally as the morning progressed they parked themselves under a tree to rest up for the next nursing and play session. She seems fine. We’ll keep checking!
One more quick cow story. Early this morning, before we let Pi, Fatz, and Cupid rejoin the herd, we spotted all the cows and calves sprinting across the south pasture. They circled up as if to check and make sure everyone was there, accounting for all their calves. Then we saw Wooly Bear sprint out on her own. She is super-pregnant and large and she seemed to be pursuing something at a dead run. She started stomping and throwing her head around and from behind one of the berms out shot a big coyote. She ran at him with fire shooting out of her nostrils and that varmint coyote headed for the hills. Then Wooly Bear headed back to the herd and gave the all clear so they all went back to peacefully grazing. Cow Drama!
Thanks for reading and coming along on this wild spring roller coaster. I hope things mellow out a bit, but we’re still waiting on four calves and they should be coming any day. Then we’re on to disking, fertilizing, planting and harrowing. Until then, keep it free out there in the real world, friends!