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Getting in shape for calving in the cold
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Getting in shape for calving in the cold

Guess who is calving?

It did not seem to matter how many speeches I prepped, they did not listen. Of course, on the coldest night of them all – which was between 35-45 below windchill – the first one decided to show up.

Does anyone else feel like a rookie the first one or two calves of the season?

I had been using my diesel pickup to check because, with the auto start, it can at least warm up a bit while I’m getting the layers of clothes on. Of course, even with extra stuff in the gas tank, it was acting up and barely made it the mile to the lot.

The cows were all bedded down. I saw a little commotion in the middle of the herd, which made me do a double take. Evidently, they could not wait any longer. The little guy was up and trying to nurse, so I pulled up alongside, went to undo my tailgate to load him up. The gate was frozen sold. I went to get back into the pickup, and the four-legged holy terror was so excited to see the new baby that she had jumped on the lock.

After a week of night calving and below zero temps, do you think I remembered my door code? And of course, my phone, which has the nifty Ford app on it, was locked in the pickup with the mutt.

I jogged to the shop, which was just through a fence and a windbreak, grabbed a UTV (and my door code) and came back to the lot to pick up the newbie.

Every year, I realize how out of shape I am when I load that first calf onto something. With all that has been going on, my gym trips have been lax. I told myself that when the first calf that hits the ground I’m going to get back to it – well, if it hits the ground on a Monday, because even though it’s seven days a week around here it’s always important to start a new plan on a Monday. At least that’s what I tell myself.

"I think that everyone has struggled to some point this year, and realizing that it’s OK to not be on our ‘A’ game every day is part of the healing process."

February and March calving is like the warm up for when the madness starts the end of April. But deadlifting 80-plus pounds of cold, goopy calf makes me realizes that the gym needs to happen sooner rather than later. I guess it will now.

The little guy got dried off in the shop, and I ran the cow in and got her milked out.

Milking is also one of those rookie agenda items. First cow of the year, there is milk everywhere. First squirt hits me solid in the chest, second one gets my eyebrow. It is literally like I have never done this “ranching” thing before. Needless to say, everyone is none the worse for the wear. It’s always a blessing to get that first one out of the way.

Surprisingly, things have been pretty smooth around here with this wave of “ether love.” The equipment has started. The waterers are staying open. Nothing has really frozen or broken that has needed major repair. I know that writing about it now will totally jinx it all, but we’ve been pretty fortunate.

I’ve got a couple loads of hay and bedding in this week. The addition of the North Place cows has put a little crunch on our hay supply, but it’s to be expected.

The most exciting thing that has happened is we had a camera crew out this last week. It was another single-digit day and they proceeded to follow me around. The verdict is still out on what the footage will be used for, but I did see some of the shots and the scenery made them pretty impressive looking.

I learn something new each time groups like these come out. The lesson this time was that having me “mic’d up” while I’m working may not really be in the best interest of myself or whoever is listening on the other end. I sing, I mumble, I tell myself stories, I talk to every animal and carry-on conversations with myself. Having to “censor” my day was probably the biggest challenge that I’ve faced in a while.

I started to analyze it a little this morning when I was picking up that calf and realized that may be extra incentive in itself to get back to the gym. I don’t want to be heard grunting and grumbling if they decide to come back and shoot some more during calving. By then, hopefully we’ll be looking a little more like the first string instead of the bench warmers.

Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at This column represents the views of one person and are not necessarily the opinion of the Midwest Messenger.   

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Jaclyn Wilson raises Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. Send comments to her at

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