A busy beginning to calving season

Eppich News: A quick start, but with a couple of unfortunate losses

Calving season is well underway with some great looking calves.

We celebrated James’s first birthday on Feb. 18. Time has passed so fast on us. It does not seem like a year already! The weather also turned nicer. It felt quite warm in comparison to the -35 C we had the week before. With the warmer weather, the snow started melting during the day and then freezing again at night. On Feb. 20 we used the 4450 tractor to auger eight post holes for our new calf shelter in the back pasture. There really wasn’t much frost, and under that it was scary how dry the ground was.

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The animals were all active in the warmer weather. On Feb. 21 one weanling filly — the orphan that we had been taking special care of — was feeling quite frisky in the nice weather and ended up slipping on the ice and breaking her back leg. It was a very sad day for us.

Gregory and John were able to salvage the tin roof from a lean-to at a friend’s old farm. It will work perfectly for our new calf shed. We also salvaged the 2x10s and 4x6s from a wood floor of an old bin that had been replaced with a hopper last year. Feb. 25 we used the Mack truck with the crane and put the roof on the calf shelter. We’ve continued working on the shelter around all our chores and other projects.

We had our first calf Feb. 27 and the next day we had three more calves — calving season had begun just like that!

On March 6 Gregory and I were able to sneak away and go to Saskatoon to pick up a few things for our greenhouse project and then attended the Ward Red Angus bull sale. We were able to purchase a nice black Angus yearling bull. When we got home we had to replace the pressure switch on the pump to the old well that supplies all the water to the livestock. Luckily it was warm enough that nothing froze.

A salvaged roof from a lean-to, was lifted into place to make an excellent roof for the new calving pen shelter. photo: Heather Eppich

We celebrated Barb’s 70th birthday Mar. 8. Joseph helped me make a cake and we had a nice supper with cake and ice cream afterward.

We had a crazy day March 14. We had a calf early in the morning and another cow looking very close. After Mass, she still hadn’t calved and we started getting worried. We put her in the head catch and sure enough, all I felt was a tail. My arms weren’t quite long enough, so Gregory was able to bring the back legs back and we pulled it. Unfortunately, we were too late and we lost the beautiful heifer.

She is such a good cow that we started phoning around trying to find a twin for her. A few minutes later we came back and she was showing a foot of a second calf. The second heifer was backward with one foot back. Gregory easily straightened it out and pulled the second heifer. Unfortunately, the second heifer also had died.

Later the same day another cow calved and still another was in labour. Then we saw a first-calf heifer down and straining with nothing to show for her efforts. We put her in the head catch and went investigating. The calf was upside down with his head back. It took a bit of effort, but Gregory was able to flip the calf over and we pulled it. Thank God, the black bull calf was alive! The heifer was exhausted but she nuzzled the calf and showed no signs of aggression toward it, so we left them in the pen with the infrared heater and checked on the other calving cow. By that time, she had calved and was licking her calf, so we took our little boys home and slept for a few hours. By morning, the heifer with the upside-down calf had licked and fed her calf. We were very happy to find that she wasn’t going to be a project for us.

We weren’t able to find a twin for the cow who lost her twins, so we have been milking her every day and waiting to see if we get more twins or if something else will become available.

About the author

Contributor

Heather Eppich is a young former Idaho rancher building a new farm and family with her husband and young son, near Handel, Sask. Contact her at: [email protected]

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