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Pre-calving season workout, with a little creativity

Jacob Geis for Progressive Cattle Published on 23 December 2021

Come April, we’re going to know whether or not we were ready for calving season. I’m not talking about having supplies, feed or the calving area ready, I mean each of us will personally feel it in our backs, arms and legs if we we’re not in physical condition to handle calving season.

Because let’s face it – manipulating a 90-pound calf wedged inside an uncooperative cow takes some elbow grease. Do it enough and you’ll sure find muscles hurting that you didn’t know you had.

So, to be better prepared for a grueling event, physical therapists tell us we should get in shape first through diet and exercise. That’s all well and good, but truth be told, those words sound as nasty to my ear as the ones you use when the tractor won’t start sound to your Catholic grandmother. So rather than going into calving season flabby, I developed an unconventional wellness plan.

First comes strength training – 50-pound feed sack throws are my primary activity. When done correctly, it will strengthen your core, back, legs and arms. As folks stop by the clinic for mineral or chlortetracycline, I volunteer to load the truck. After a cold, wet storm, it’s amazing how many tons a guy might load.

Next off, my 6-month-old daughter Mitzi helps me work my shoulders and triceps with her affinity for bouncing. Of course we bought her seat that sits in the doorway and she can bounce herself, but it’s way more fun to have Dad do the work. With the world’s cutest smile in front of you, you’ll be doing 20-pound baby lifts all the way to the burnout phase.

Now those marathon all-night sessions with sequential uterine prolapses require not only strength but stamina. To build that, we need to add some cardio. This, for me, presents a problem as I abhor running. I only have two reasons to run – either toward something I find tasty or away from something that finds me tasty. It’s basically the bear claw versus actual bear rule.

So to trick myself into cardio, I dub it entertainment and call it pheasant hunting. Sure, it’s not running a marathon, but following a wound-up Labrador through cattails buried in 8-plus inches of snow for a few miles will get your heart pumping. It’s even a better experience when I don’t miss my shot.

Of course, this time of year, simply doing chores can be an exercise in endurance. The morning routine of chopping ice and feeding supplement, followed by the evening routine of chopping ice again combines both cardio and strength training. It’s the perfect workout!

And for great combination workout programs, one-day events like gathering cattle from cornstalks take the cake. This may involve loading panels and setting them up, then getting the four-wheeler stuck while gathering cattle. This is followed by walking back to the house because you forgot your cell phone to call your wife to help. As a couple, you can exercise together by coming back with the pickup and trailer only to get those stuck as well. The one who needs the exercise the most (which, for the sake of your marriage, should always be the man) then walks back to the house to get the tractor to pull it all out. After getting everything unstuck, then you actually load cattle and bring them home.

But what about the diet part? Well, that’s simple; I eat beef. And I limit myself to only one serving of dessert at Christmas dinner. One serving of each kind of dessert, that is.  end mark

PHOTO: A good workout should work your upper body, lower body and core. This is a great workout program that also accomplishes something useful in the process. Photo provided by Jacob Geis.

Jacob Geis is a veterinarian and blogger in Freeman, South Dakota.

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