February 6, 2013 by Taylor Angus
Ahh calving season. How do I describe thee? I think a quote from Charles Dickens should do the trick. Paraphrased of course:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way-”
Calving season is the best time of the year. It’s the sign of a new generation. It brings new life into the cattle herd, and allows producers to see the fruits of their labor running around on four legs. (And let’s face it, who doesn’t love seeing all those adorable baby calves?) Calving season is the life blood of any cow-calf operation. It truly is the best of times.
At Taylor Angus, calving season starts around the end of January, and will sometimes last into the beginning of March. It involves staying up all night for weeks on end, checking the heifers (females that haven’t yet had a calf) every two to four hours, and the cows(females that have had at least one calf) two to three times a day. We provide them with bedding, keep the heifers in a warm, dry barn, and roll out hay daily for the cows to lay on.
Which brings me to the next part of my story: the worst of times. For in the wake of all this wonderful new life, sorrow awaits at every turn. All of these precautions are taken to insure the safety of the calf crop. But even with all of our efforts, not all can be saved.
Between troubles with the delivery, outside threats such as coyotes, and the cold winter snow, ice and wind, these babies have the deck stacked against them from the beginning. I have spent many hours in the truck with a frozen baby at my feet and another on my lap. Words cannot describe the pain one feels when seeing a big, black, mama cow forcefully nudging, licking, and prodding her lost baby, urging it to get up and nurse, unaware that the baby will never get to see the light of day. I could go on for hours about the loss of profit and all of the financial repercussions of losing just one baby, but honestly? It’s not our pocket books we’re crying over, it’s the loss of something, that never had a chance to live.