Calving Capers 15

Hard to believe but for all intents and purposes our “calving season/calving capers” has wound down to this handful of faithful cows due any day now. We don’t need to check on them every two hours as had been the case during the beginning weeks of our adventures. We are content now to let these girls do it on their own. After all, they’ve done so successfully for many years now.

I did however have a little short-lived excitement this week when hubby brought in Dilbert from the field. From the slough actually, which is where he had been lying in. He couldn’t stand up and his mother was certainly not able to assist.

Dilbert has been “slow” from the start. He is “different”. He has small eyes and big dumbo-elephant-like ears and it took quite awhile before he took to naturally feeding from his momma. We’re not sure what set him back on this day to be stuck in the slough but whatever the reason, I was ready with the bottle and nursette and ultimately to be his caregiver. There hasn’t been a year yet that I haven’t had some little character to fuss over.

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But this episode turned out to be short-lived. I guess it was my few hours of TLC that encouraged him there was hope to carry on. By the end of the day he was standing on his own and able to navigate, albeit unsteadily, around the pen. By morning, I was out of a job and he was happily reunited with his momma…health returned.

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Thankfully, hubby agrees that we should keep Dilbert and his mom close to home this year instead of the pasture. After all, he’s a little bit slow and he just might need me yet!

 

 

 

Calving Capers 14

Calving itself has it’s own level of stressors and concerns but I find that the “harder” part of calving and raising cattle is keeping the little critters healthy, thriving and ultimately alive! 

This little gal [ears drooping, lethargic, barely able to keep up to mom] needed to be brought closer to home for treatment. Yes, we care for our sick animals with proper medicinal intervention and close observation throughout. To my mind, this is humane treatment of the animals in our care who depend on us for their well-being. I would much rather provide effective antibiotic medicine and see our little calves return to their energetic selves within a few days than have them needlessly suffering and dying in misery in the fields.

 

 

 

Calving Capers 13

My girls certainly stepped up to the plate this week. All my original cast of characters decided to become mothers within days of each other and some with more drama than the others.
My dear Shirley Temple (from Calving Capers 4) was the first. With no problem at all she brought her little fella into the world but gave me such a look perhaps wondering…”what just happened?”

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To top off that surprise, she and her calf then spent their first night together under a spring snowfall! Again, she gives me the look….”what just happened?”

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A day later, little Miss Goldilicks (from Calving Capers 1) presented us a real adventure. We had to pull her very large calf as she wasn’t able to push it out on her own. And this episode was what we define as a “hard pull”…”difficult”…”stressful” for both man and beast.
Mother and son looked pretty sore and exhausted after delivery ….

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….thankfully though, after a couple days of rest and sunshine and TLC from us, they have turned out to be a most attractive pair.

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Last, but not least, 3B-Marble Dip (from Calving Capers 3), yes…I named her finally, from the Vanilla Dip Family, delivered while I was away from the ranch again. Everything went well thanks to a little gentle assist (which means – a less stressful pull) from hubby who continues to hold down the fort on his own while I tended to my off-farm commitments with the family.

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I am so happy to see that each of my “starlets” have turned out to be fine first-time mothers and thus solidifying their position in our herd for years to come.

Calving Capers 12

I find myself at somewhat of a loss for words when I consider just how close we came to losing our entire home and ranch this past week. Just a mile away from us a raging bush fire was out of control and rapidly growing, fuelled by gusty 70-75 KM winds and heading our way!

My husband and other neighbouring farmers quickly got into action by hooking up their tractors to their discing machines and racing to the surrounding fields to work up the ground around the menacing flames in an effort to contain the inferno. The entire community of local and surrounding volunteer fire departments wasted no time either in getting on scene, working together along with the farmers and ranchers to save all the surrounding properties.

I wasn’t even home when all of this was happening. I was at a photography convention in a city five hours away! When I got the call from my husband, as he headed out to the “war zone” with our own tractor and disc … well, all I could think of was his safety and our animals. What do you do to protect 400+cows, calves, bulls, horses, dogs and cats? At that point, and for the first time in my life, photography meant absolutely nothing to me. I just wanted to get home.

Instead I was encouraged to stay where I was, of course I would be no good for anyone driving alone in a panic for 4-5 hours. Cooler heads prevailed, the community proved themselves as heroes and the fire was contained and controlled by midnight.

The aftermath from a close call such as this is extreme gratefulness and a further enhanced appreciation of our home and livelihood. We came so close to losing everything in a matter of minutes. Our diligence towards safety is heightened as we continue to face a very dry spring with daily winds and no hint of moisture for sometime yet. It is most comforting to know we have such a great community that will jump into action and work together for everyone’s safety.

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And so….my husband and I have made a pact, a promise to each other for next year’s calving season . No more conferences, seminars, curling bonspiels, conventions or long trips away from home from mid-March to mid-May. We need each other’s support and joint efforts on-site  to run this operation safely and effectively during the critical calving season. Because, through wind, rain, snow and even fire…the calves just keep coming!

Calving Capers 11

The day has settled down

The night is still

There are no winds, not even a breeze

Hubby is sleeping until his 2AM shift

The world is mine on the ranch

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Out in the darkness a cow will moan in search of her calf. The calf will reply with a soft cry of his own.

Silence returns

They have found each other once again

 

THIS is my favourite part of calving…the Midnight Shift – My Shift

The stars, the moon, my cows at rest … my world

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Calving Capers 10

Our 3W cow has had a pretty tough calving season so far. At the outset she delivered a set of premature breech twins – well, hubby had to certainly help her along on that. Sadly the first twin out was deceased and the second little fella just took forever to “spunk up”.

His first few days of life were spent inside our cozy barn and then in the “executive suite ” pen….the very same one where my pampered blind calf Ugo used to reside. I came to call his subsequent environments “Wayne’s World” and he then became “Little Wayne” to me.

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So Little Wayne would sleep in the straw in a corner in the pen day in and day out. I would bring his mom 3W in at night and let her out in the morning and Wayne would muster enough energy to get up and suck for awhile.

That was pretty much his exciting life and routine until I went away for a few days on the conference and I got the news that Little Wayne had died while I was away. I pretty much knew he wouldn’t make it. Being a premature calf and a lonely twin, the odds were stacked against him.

So this week the oddest thing happened. I happened to be walking in the pen where 3W was feeding and she looked up at me with such a “look”- hard to describe. The oddest thing was she then started to follow me around the corral. I realized that this was the first time she had really seen me since losing her Little Wayne and she may have thought perhaps I would take her to him once again just like I always used to do.

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Well of course this kind of thing has a way of breaking my heart. I put too much human emotion into the lifestyles of our cows and I think it costs us some extra energy – that which we have little to spare these days at full-bore calving! However, this behaviour encouraged both hubby and myself that perhaps she was able to take on a recently born twin, in essence to replace her Little Wayne and take the load off the other twin mom cow and ultimately keep her a productive member of the herd.

So we are now in the process of attempting this “transplanting” activity, to turn 3W into the adoptive mother of Little Wayne. It requires separating the “new” twin from his original family but luckily we have another fella living in the barn to keep him company.

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Calving Capers 9

img_20160329_185249.jpg The Hyatt Regency – my home away from home for a couple days this week as I attended the Advancing Women Conference. Country girl in the big city whilst calving capers continued to carry on back home on the ranch – and with a vengeance.  The calf count went up considerably in my absence!

I was fortunate  to travel to Calgary and network with other women in agriculture as we gathered to listen and learn from some amazing gals in the industry.

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The very best thing about a conference like this is the opportunity to meet new people and develop that very social skill called “networking”…always my favourite part. Thanks to Tamara, Elan and Christen – three fun and warm-hearted girls from Saskatchewan that I met for the first time – for a fun evening enhanced by a little wine and calamari.

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