I’m struggling here. Why the heck do people calve in this type of weather? With as advanced as we have become in the last century — I mean, look, we have cell phones, Al Gore invented the Internet, and you can buy a bottle of Draxin for $500 — how much more advancement do we need to determine that calving in bad weather is dumb?
I’ve heard all the reasons —
“Earlier calves will weigh more, and by right should bring more money.”
“Well we’re farmers so we need to have the calving done before we start farming.”
“Mud, just one word … mud.”
“Those yearling bulls need to weigh a ton at our spring bull sale.”
OK, maybe a little exaggeration, and I’m pretty sure that preggo brain may be affecting this article. I did have an in-depth conversation about preggo brain last week with one of my vets and he self-diagnosed that may be his issue right now, too. (Disclaimer: Neither him nor I are pregnant, it’s just how your brain reacts during calving season with no sleep, long, days, and ugly weather.)
Back to dumb weather. Last week was a challenging one. I currently have recips calving at home, and natural service cows calving at the North Place. The first storm hit home, it amounted to around 10 inches of the picturesque, pristine, postcard-ready pain-in-my-butt.
Of course, on that day I had an appointment to take a beef into — of all places — Pierce, Colo. Considering the waitlist for any processor around here starts at about six months out, it wasn’t an appointment I really could miss.
I had checked cows at 3:30 and then got on the road. It was kind of hit-or-miss whether one was even on the highway until the snowplows started showing up around 5. Five hours later, the steer was delivered. The Right Hand fed at the Home Place lot that day, and kept an eye on cows, and my landlord fed at the North Place. Fortunately, there were no issues.
The second storm hit the North Place and dropped over eight inches of lovely, heavy snow. It was no longer picturesque and pristine by this point. The same storm had tracked over the home place the night before and radar had it sitting directly on top of us, but somehow it left us with a little ice and a skiff of snow.
I got done feeding at home and headed north to try and access the damage. Everyone was accounted for, and after a couple hours of feeding and bedding stuff for the evening — oh, and getting the Hydra Bed unstuck off the ice — I loaded a couple of bales and headed to cornstalks. It was a little challenging getting cows fed there. Let me put it this way — the Boss Man has a really nice shovel in his Hydra Bed and I got to use it multiple times that day.
I was visiting with someone — and yep, preggo brain again and don’t recall who it was — and they asked if I was developing a bad attitude with the weather. I said actually the one thing that bad weather does is it makes you appreciate the small things, like; ‘Yay the tractor started, or heck yeah, the corn steep’s not froze, or would you look at that, what a neat shovel!’
As I’m writing this, the Weather Channel app (which, I’m not Catholic, but almost thought about giving it up for Lent), is showing that this week might be the ugliest storm yet. Predictions range from 5-24 inches of snow with 40 mph winds. It’s turned into a rush to get the Right Hand moved into the Hunting Lodge at the North Place for a couple of days, things bedded in preparation in both places, and somehow, I need to figure out how to get those cows off stalks in the next day or two without having to use the Boss Man’s shovel again.
With weather like this, it makes one come to appreciate certain things. The Boss Man and I were having a discussion about succession plans, and he questioned if I planned on changing anything with our home operation when that time came. I said that I liked how things work at home with May calving, as this calving in February and March is dumb. I guess the question is, what does that make me?
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Neb. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.