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?”


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?”


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 ….


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


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.


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.


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


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




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.


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.


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.





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.


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.



Calving Capers 8

What happens, more often than not, during springtime on the ranch in the early stages of calving is – a winter storm. We just departed from probably the mildest winter in decades to be greeted, on the second day of spring with a blizzard.
Also, what happens, more often than not, a blizzard-y storm brings on the birthing! Our heifers started to calve one after the other. Between hubby and myself we were getting up to check the herds every two hours.
We are so fortunate to have a big old hip-roof barn for shelter and warmth for the critters and their babes. It doesn’t take long, however, to fill it up when these girls just keep dropping their calves! We are at full capacity!

My heart goes out to these young females, on a good day, when they experience motherhood for the first time. Throw in this nastiest of nasty weather to compound their new adventure – all I can say is….it builds character! For animal and human alike! So far we are very gratified to see they have taken to their calf almost immediately and become the strong, quiet mothers we have raised them to be.

This gal was so quiet in fact that we were able to pull her calf right in the barn pen where she lay. Here you go….freshly pulled!








Calving Capers 7

Recent events have resulted in bringing our cows in from the field this week…TEN days early. Our official calving start date was “calculated” to commence March 26. Wellll, as I started to say…recent events have encouraged us – most strongly – to bring them home within eyesight and a close by stroll from the house.
So this is my new view from the kitchen window. Suits me just fine. It has been a chilly few days, during the snow squalls and winds, riding the quad out to the far field to check on these girls.


“The Watch” is now underway. Flicka Rancher does the midnight check as I am the night owl and like the quiet evening hours to tackle the paperwork projects back inside until it’s my turn to head out. Then hubby checks whilst I sleep…..but the deal is….if there is a hint of trouble….I am to be rousted from said slumber!
And so…it begins…

Calving Capers 6

Another part of preparing for the spring calving season is to have the freezer full of homemade muffins and make-ahead-casseroles. I’m behind on the casserole category but the muffin mission has been satisfactory.

Looking forward to spending as little time as possible in the kitchen in the days ahead. My preference is to be out in the corrals, fields or barn and helping our new little critters start their lives with us on the ranch.

Calving Capers 5

Flicka Rancher is the farthest thing from being a rancher this week. I find myself in the big city 150KM away staying with my mom and helping her start the process of packing up a lifetime of 45+ years in our family home. She is moving to an assisted living complex where she will have a lovely two bedroom suite on the fourth floor, freedom from meal preparation and no more house and yard maintenance to endure in our challenging changing Alberta seasons.The mission is to get everything done before calving season – according to my husband who has been most supportive in holding down the fort and chores on his own as I tend to family duties beyond the ranch.


Mom and I are having a truly special few days of, not only packing-purging and accomplishing but that of reminiscing-laughing-crying and sharing.