Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Truth About Calving Season

Calving season is entering its second week at our place. It is one of my favorite times of the year, kind of like Christmas each morning. Life is good, for now. However, it is not without its pitfalls and shortcomings. The progression from giddy excitement and wonderment to pain and suffering is something that evolves over about six weeks.

Week one, the alarm goes off at 5:30, you bound out of bed with a song in your heart and springs on your feet. Your clothes are laid out by the foot of the bed in anticipation of a great day. The supplies needed for greeting newborns into the world are carefully laid out and double checked the night before. Your chore clothes are hung by the back door, clean and crisp, your boots standing at attention next to them.

The brisk winter air greets you, putting a glow on your cheeks, the grass sparkles with frost. You find the first calf of the season nestled in a warm place being licked clean by his adoring angelic mother. You pause for a second taking in the wonderment of new life. Then you gently tag the calf with a bright shiny tag that matches his mother’s. Life is good.

Somewhere about week three, the alarm goes off and you groan. It takes just a second to wake up, your chore clothes are laying in a pile at the foot of the bed. There is an ache in your back and pains in your knees but nothing a little pain reliever and a cup of coffee can’t fix. Bibs, coat and gloves are thrown over the peg by the back door. Various odors and stains from things that probably shouldn’t be mentioned are sprinkled over them. Your boots are caked with mud and laying on their side. The box with the calving supplies is muddy and in a state of confusion, you are down to one working syringe, the tagger handle is bent and tags are randomly strewn across the box. You can only hope there are enough buttons for the tags.

You wearily step out the door and are smacked in the face with the sting of the wind. The frost on the grass makes your feet cold; you can’t wait for warmer weather. This morning’s calf requires a half an hour’s search because the stupid cow hid it so good. But you are glad to have a healthy calf, even if mama is a little over protective. The calf is caught and tagged as fast as you can, with a 1300 pound observer blowing cow drool down your back. Life will get better.

Then there is week 6 and beyond. The alarm goes off at 5:30 and is thrown across the room. You will yourself out of bed. Your back is frozen in a permanent hunched position, your knees creak with each step and your ankles; let's just say you are considering amputation at this point. Finding no clothes at the foot of your bed you sniff clothes in the hamper and select the least offensive set.

The chore clothes are in a pile next to the door, the odor beckons buzzards and the crust must be broken before they can be put on. Your boots are thrown next to them, still wet from the holes that have developed during the past six long weeks.

The arctic wind punches you in the face and the heavy frost must be chipped off of the windshield before the long trek to the pasture can be made. The calving box disintegrated two weeks ago, tags are hidden throughout the cab, you are not sure where the tagger is and buttons, well, we will get to that later.

The cow with the calf can be seen running at full speed across the pasture. Finally she decides to make her last stand in a grove of locust trees. She waits for you shaking her head and pawing the ground. The thorns from the trees pierce various body parts as you spin in circles keeping the calf between you and the demon cow. As for tagging it, that is when you realize you are out of buttons. Finally, you give in and let the calf loose, only to find out you have locked yourself out of the pickup. Mentally you add up what you would get for all of the cows and a pickup with a broken window. You look forward to the sweet release of death.

Then suddenly, it’s all over, all the calves are on the ground. You sit and watch the calves bucking and playing. The grass is greening up and the leaves are coming out on the trees. As the birds sing and a warm spring wind brushes across your face, you realize life is once again good.

Don’t get me wrong, I love calving season and most of this was only tongue in cheek. It is the way of life I have chosen and I wouldn’t give it up for any amount of money. However, about this time of the year, I would consider selling various body parts for a morning without the 5:30 alarm.


  1. Perfect description Glenn. One of the hardest things about returning to college this Spring is missing out on calving season. And you described the feeling here on spot. But we do it every day because we wouldn't have it any other way. I'll have to live vicariously through your narratives until I am able to return.

  2. THIS IS AWESOME - and so close to the truth about all aspects of farming and ranching that when I laugh I am also crying just a little inside!

    Hope it is OK to share on my Facebook page and Blog Facebook page!