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Murphy’s Law of calving

Erica Louder for Progressive Cattleman Published on 17 January 2017
mama cow and calf

It wasn’t our first choice to calve our heifers in January, but some things can’t be helped. It’s a risk to calve in January, especially in Idaho. But to calve in January in Idaho during a 30-year storm – well, that is downright stupid.

In January we were also planning on attending the American Farm Bureau Convention so I could compete in the Young Farmer and Rancher Discussion Meet. But, to add insult to injury, the convention was Jan. 5-9. The calves were due on the 12th.

The week we were to leave we stalked the weather report and were hopeful the calves would hold out. Surprise, we had two calves born 10 days early. Then it dumped 6 inches of snow and the wind blew like it only blows in southern Idaho. By the next morning, we had snowdrifts as high as our skid steer. I changed our plane tickets and we dug out. In the meantime, we had calves with frostbitten ears and angry mamas.

About dark that day we had more heifers calving and the temperature had dropped to 8 below. Rather than waiting it out, we decided to pull calves. Before we knew it, there were two Angus embryo calves in the bathtub, all while my 4-year-old “babysat” our 1-year-old. I did get a chance to put the baby to bed while Craig milked the postpartum mamas. I pulled out my hair dryer and went to work on our other babies. You remember that part about everything that can go wrong will go wrong? This is just the beginning.

I ran outside to grab the colostrum. In the few minutes it took to get inside, the milk was freezing. It was that cold. Eventually, I fed the calves and left to pick up a three-way cord splitter for the heat lamps. The pickup truck thermometer now read 16 below. Remember our 4-year-old? Yeah, she was still in charge of the sleeping baby. I would joke about child protection services, but I would hate to incriminate myself.

When I got back, we prepared to bring the calves outside. We loaded the warmed calves on the tailgate, but not before weighing them. In the process of in vitro fertilization, funny things can happen and genes get “turned on.” The growth gene definitely turned on in this bull calf; he maxed our scale at 110 pounds. In the bathtub, his full sister looked tiny at 76 pounds. And not just was he heavy, you could have mistaken him for a 3-month-old calf if it wasn’t for his eponychium hooves.

We finally had the calves settled for the night in heavy straw under heat lamps. I went to park the pickup and high centered it on a gravel pile I thought was a snowdrift. I nearly cried. A little before midnight, we made it inside to clean the bathroom and hit the hay –our hay this time.

The next morning, we left for sunny Phoenix – leaving the calves in the hands of friends who are capable and exceptionally generous (thanks Dean, Cliff and Ike). And remember the reason we went to the convention, for my discussion meet? Well, I made the sweet 16 round and narrowly lost out on the final four – the prize being a new Chevy pickup.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. We only half know what to expect when we get home, but we can hope that Murphy’s Law is concluded with the delayed flight back to Idaho.  end mark

Erica Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

PHOTO: Staff photo.

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