Feb. 1, 2020 — The first embryo transfer calf of the new year hit the ground 10 days early. The weather was in the mid-50s, and it was a perfect day to be calving.
I had noticed the recip on my way over to the feedlot starting to act like she was really considering being in an intelligent mood and not only calve during the daylight, but calve before the weather turned miserable over the following days.
Once I finished feeding, I checked on the cows again and there she was, over in a hole all by herself, and a new little purebred Angus calf appeared an hour later.
Calving has always been my favorite time of the year. My patience level has disappeared by the time that first calf appears, from waiting incessantly. I’ve brought the recips into the lots, checked them regularly, and then the paranoia starts to set in as I continually second-guess whether this night is the one that I should start night calving or I should get up a couple hours earlier tomorrow morning to make sure that nothing has happened.
Considering we have calves that are owned by clients makes it even more nerve-wracking. I absolutely hate to lose anything, but it’s one of the worst feelings I have being in the business to call someone else and tell them that they lost a calf under my watch.
This year, that first calf appeared and, I’ll be honest, I think I said a cuss word and hung my head. I’m not ready.
I’m not ready for the possibility of another year like last year. I’m not ready for those restless nights where you barely shut your eyes before you are propelled awake by the worry of whether you did enough to ensure that everyone will be accounted for in the morning.
I’m not ready for the muck, the rising water table, the feeding in mud holes, and the constant cleaning and rebedding overhangs and barns. I’m not ready for lifting frozen calves onto my lap on the ATV and sleet pelleting my face to the point it draws blood while I drive as fast as I can to get the critter into the bathtub or shop office and dry. I’m not ready for the constant checking on every little calve that’s huddled up in the hay to make sure that ears and tails aren’t getting frozen. I’m just not ready.
I guess I realized that those years we struggle — even though we feel like we have made it through the struggle — maybe we really haven’t. Maybe it’s not as easy to forget and move on as they say it is, and maybe that’s OK.
Last year sucked, and I think a lot of us are still realizing how big of an effect it truly had on some of us. I’m hoping that 10 years from now, I can be telling the story of 2019 and how that was the turning point where we realized how bad things could get. I’m hoping we can look at how far we’ve come since.
I’m writing this in a Starbucks in southern Denver. A couple others and I ventured through miserable weather to tour a packing plant this morning. Tomorrow morning, weather willing, I fly to San Antonio for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s annual convention. I have responsibilities that will keep me busy during the convention. Since the event is a week later than usual this year, the Business Partner, Boss Man (who said he hopes no black cows calve when I’m gone), and the Right Hand will be watching the recips closely at home.
The weather isn’t supposed to be the greatest this week, but the barns are clean, and the bedding is ready in case anyone else decided that maybe calving in ugly weather is what they prefer.
I’m hoping this week will get me reenergized. The tour this morning was a great start. I just hope that it will continue throughout the week so I’m ready to hit this calving season with the love and enjoyment that I usually have. And I’ll realize that if it becomes a repeat of last year, we survived and we will do everything in our power to survive again.
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 email@example.com.