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Foaling and seeding season still ahead

Last calf of the season from a reluctant mother

Cows with calves head to the bunk for rations, as spring pasture is still some days away.

March stayed cold and the cold remained clear into April. By mid-March we had two-thirds of the cows calved out and they were all doing great. The last third of calving turned out to be exciting and stressful. On March 20 Gregory found a heifer calving but quickly noticed that the feet were not right. We quickly took the boys over to Grandma Barb’s and then got the heifer in the head catch. We discovered that the calf was backward. It was large enough that we had to use the calf puller to get it out quickly enough to save it. Luckily, we were able to pull the big bull calf out. The heifer went straight to mothering it.

About eight hours later, I found a heifer with feet out, but again they were not right. It was around 2 a.m. and the boys were both still sleeping so Gregory got Grandpa John to come over to keep an eye on the boys. Again, the calf was backward. It was a much smaller calf so we were able to pull it by hand. This time the heifer had no interest in her calf.

The heifer eventually licked the calf a little bit and Gregory and I both saw it nurse. We didn’t turn the pair out because the cow was slow to bond to her calf. It was a very good thing that we didn’t because the calf was not nursing enough. The cow wasn’t encouraging the calf to get up, so the little heifer was just starving to death. I ended up tubing her several times a day for three days. Finally, the work paid off and the calf started fighting me when I tubed her. We had been milking the cow for two days. When the calf started getting stronger, we helped her nurse the cow. The cow was not aggressive toward the calf in any way, just oblivious to the fact that she needed to mother it. Finally, the calf got strong and determined enough to chase her cow down to nurse. Once the calf was nursing, the heifer would stand but she wouldn’t lick it or keep track of it.

It was still terribly cold at night so we were doing checks every two hours. I went out at about 4 a.m. April 1 and found a cow had just calved, so I put the calf in the sled and got it under the heater in the calving pen. I went back to the house to get a towel to help dry off the ears and feet, and to tell Gregory what I was doing. When I got back to the corral, the cow was licking a second calf. Twins! She was standing between the two calves and was licking both of them. We decided that since they were under the heater and out of the wind, and the cow was taking care of both, that we wouldn’t disturb her.

Birthday present

At about 3 a.m. April 11, my birthday, I found a heifer calving. I put her in the calving pen and went home. A little later Gregory went out and found a healthy bull calf. It was a very nice birthday present.

Joseph helped Grandma Barb to make and decorate a cake, and John and Barb had a nice birthday dinner for me.

Finally, we finished calving on Easter Sunday. A cow had her bull calf up and wandering around when I checked them in the morning and the last heifer was in labour with feet out. We watched the heifer closely and she wasn’t making any progress so we pulled the calf. It was by far the smallest calf of the year, much smaller than the twins, but the heifer had a very narrow pelvis and would not have been able to have it on her own. We had even more trouble with her as she had no interest in being a mom and would hit the calf with her head and throw it across the pen. She has gotten a little better but we are still babysitting the pair, making sure she lets the calf nurse.

On April 14 we brought the horses in and turned the cows and calves, except for the youngest ones and the twins, out to the little home pasture where we are feeding them hay and oats chop. We sorted off the mares that are due the soonest and put them in the back corral. By the end of April, we should start foaling.

Gregory and John have been working to get the equipment ready for seeding. Very soon they will be in the fields doing the pre-work and then seeding.

About the author


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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