Calving out a bunch of heifers is always a challenge, but this year has been more demanding than usual with all of them having been artificially inseminated and synchronized to give birth on specific dates (none of them calved on their due date).
The first seven arrived without incident and even included one set of twins, but it all went downhill after that with my wife and I having to assist each one of the next four.
The first two that required assistance came in relatively mild weather, where it really wasn’t uncomfortable to shed my coat, before putting on the shoulder-length OB gloves and getting right to work. The third one came in a cold rain which had left the corral resembling a pit that would have been perfect for a mud-wrestling event, but by that time, my vet assistant (Judy) knew the routine so perfectly, she was handing me the instruments before I even had to ask.
On the morning of the fourth event, it was 15 degrees, spitting a mixture of snow and freezing rain, with the wind blowing about 30 mph. Over breakfast, Judy commented, “I sure hope we don’t have to pull one today.” I nodded in agreement.
As I fed hay and checked everything that morning, everybody looked safe, although there was one heifer that was acting a little “cowy.” I only hoped that she would head to the wooded area and have it on her own. I checked on her again, about noon, and she still showed no signs of labor, so I breathed a sigh of relief, because the weather had gotten progressively worse as the day went on.
Judy rode with me in the UTV late that afternoon as I checked all the cows at three locations before sundown. Heifers were the first stop and, sure enough, the heifer that had acted suspicious earlier in the day, was in the edge of the woods, straining like crazy, with two feet and a nose protruding. I told Judy that we’d give her some more time while we checked the cows at the other two locations. An hour later, she hadn’t made any progress, so I decided to try to drive her the quarter-mile to the corral.
With Judy following in the UTV, I did my best to coax her out of the woods and into the open pasture towards the pen. The freezing rain was stinging my face and all of us went directly into the frigid north wind. The windy trip took about 20 minutes and I was fairly certain that Judy was appreciating the heater in the UTV. Luckily, the young heifer was easy to get up and Judy parked right beside the squeeze chute with all my tools already loaded.
The first problem occurred when I went to raise the tailgate on the chute – it was frozen solid to the bottom of the chute. I finally kicked and hammered enough until it broke loose. Next, as I tried to open the head gate, it, too, was frozen tight. After more kicking, hammering and strong language, it opened.
We got the heifer in and secured, and for the first time in my life, I had to break off frozen remnants of the water bag to get to the business at hand, when I had one of those great ideas. Judy has been hounding me for three years, to let her go up in the cow and attach the OB straps to the legs of the calf.
“Here’s your opportunity, dear. I’m going to let you do the honors today.”
Her shivering voice was hardly audible through the layers of coats, mittens and scarves, but I’m pretty sure she said, “#$%& NO! You do it and be *&^% quick about it!”
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’