Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Oh the Joys of Calving Season

Just in case you didn't catch my column in the Gering Citizen Newspaper last week, I thought I'd post it here for you. I don't always repost my columns, so you really should just subscribe to the Gering Citizen! It's a great paper and well worth the measly $30 bucks for a WHOLE YEAR or subscribe to the eEdition for only $25 smack-a-roos!


Friday night, May 6th, was my niece's graduation from EWC (Eastern Wyoming College). We are all so proud of her! Friday was a hectic day from the “get go” and I needed to be in Torrington by 6:30 pm for the graduation. I was busy feeding and watering the chickens and trying to hurry so I wouldn't be late. I happened to look out in the pasture, to make sure everything was okay with the cows and calves before I headed back into the house to change my clothes and get ready when I noticed a calf flat on his side looking dead as a doornail. (What a weird idiom that is, dead as a doornail!)

So, I trudged out to the pasture to check on the little guy. Just what I didn't need now, especially since I had somewhere to go and was needing to be getting ready. It seems like these things never happen at a convenient time, but then again, I don't know if there ever is a convenient time for situations like this. As I approached the calf, he remained lifeless, not even a twitch of his ear or flick of his tail. To make matter worse, the mother cow standing near him was "JD", not an especially friendly mother cow. She is the winner of the “over-protective mother” award each year. As I approach a little closer, I saw that he was at least breathing. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. That was a good sign.

JD noticed that I was making my way towards her calf and started making her way towards me. I softly tell her I just want to make sure he is okay and she snorts a warning sign to me that I'd better watch my step. No funny business or she is going to make me her lunch. Not wanting to get too close and cause her concern, I wanted to make sure he was not just sleeping so I whistled real loud and clapped my hands to get his attention. That sure got JD's attention and she snorted and pawed the ground in front of me, but the calf still did not respond.

I cautiously inched my way to the calf, all the while talking softly to JD reassuring her that I meant no harm to her calf. She was on one side of the calf and I on the other. I gingerly squatted down to the calf while concernedly keeping one eye on JD. Slowly I reached out my hand to touch the calf while JD inched closer. She lowered her head to smell the calf and I lightly touched him. I thought that if I could touch him, he would wake-up if he was just sleeping. Nothing, he continued to lay there, not opening his eyes, but still breathing. I tried again, this time a little more forcefully, rubbing his belly. JD snorted again and threw her head a little, but the calf just laid there.

Once again I assured JD that I wasn't going to hurt the little guy, I just wanted to make sure he was okay. One more time I reached out and tugged on his ear. He finally opened his eyes, but that was it. I picked up one of his back legs and gave it a tug. No resistance and when I let go, it dropped to the ground like a dead weight. Now JD was getting a little more agitated with me.

Well, it was clear to me that this little guy wasn't feeling so well, so I went to go get Dan so we could get this calf back to the corral and attend to him. There was no way I could take him by myself, not with his vigilant mother. Dan was plowing a field, so I had to ride the four-wheeler out there to get him.

Dan asked me if the calf was just sleeping and I said I didn't think so and explained all I had done to him and he hadn't responded. Dan and I went back out to the pair and Dan examined the calf. He also agreed that we should take him in and examine him. Besides, he hadn't gotten his ear tag yet, because Dan didn't want to do that by himself knowing that the mother was a little over protective. Dan said we'd better get the truck because he was afraid the mother would try to take him, if he took the calf.

Dan's pickup was hooked to a trailer so we couldn't take his, so we had to take my truck. At first we were just going to nab the calf and put him in the pickup bed. I would drive while Dan would ride in the truck bed with the calf but then Dan changed his mind and wanted to put the calf in the back of the crew cab. I wasn't too keen on that idea, especially since we were using MY truck. I finally consented to the idea, because I was afraid of the mother cow and a little fearful for my husband's life. I also said, "That calf better not poop in my truck!"

Dan promised me the calf would not make a mess, besides, we didn't have that far to go. After we discussed operation "nab the calf", we headed towards the pair. I was to drive between the mother and the calf while Dan jumped out of the truck, nabbed the calf and jumped back in with the calf. Sounded like a plan, but these things never go as planned. I have learned this from numerous "operations" such as this and each one never being executed as planned. I could just picture JD getting all worked up and smashing into my nice truck which I wanted to keep looking nice. My concern was also growing that I was going to be late for my niece's graduation.

We approached the pair and miracle of miracles, JD had wondered off just far enough that I was able to drive right between the two. Dan jumped out of the truck and scooped up the calf with lighting speed and had the calf safe in the cab in record time before JD even knew what we were doing. As we sped towards the corral, JD stood there in wonderment looking for her calf. Wow, that was unbelievable! Our operations never run as smoothly as that! As we were racing towards the corral, the calf suddenly became alert and alive! He must have been thinking, "Whoa, what just happened to me? Hey, you're not my mother. Get me out of this here." Dan had to hold onto the calf with all his might until we got to the corral.

As I put the truck in park, a distinct smell made it's way to my nostrils. I knew that
ill-smelling smell which made my nose wrinkle up! I said, "Did that calf just poop in my truck?" Dan replied, "Uh, just a little."

I was not in the least bit amused at the situation. But on the bright side of things, it would appear as if the calf was just sleeping (very soundly) and nothing was wrong with him. We safely got him tagged and let him back in the pasture where he immediately reunited with his mother. Meanwhile, I drove the truck back to the house and grabbed a bucket full of soapy water and a scrub brush. As I cleaned the mess up, I was thankful that it was a false alarm with the calf and that he was perfectly fine. I also wondered how many other people had to clean calf poop out of their truck before they could go to a graduation?

Just in case you've never seen it...

ooey, gooey, smelly calf poop!
Although it's not much, it's still a massive amount of ick!

Well done Shaina! We are so proud of you!
Now on to nursing school!!

EWC Graduation Class of 2011

Lori (my sister), Shaina and Mark (my brother-in-law)

Adam (Shaina's boyfriend), Shaina and Morgan (my other niece)


  1. I just had to laugh when I scrolled down from the calf poop picture and the next picture was your niece.

  2. Thanks for your post lol. I used your picture to examine normal poop vs. scours.