It’s almost that time of year again (my favorite), calving season! In preparation for it, I thought I would share the 5 most valued tools/products we use on the .7 Ranch. We are about 3-4 weeks away and preparation is key!
- Quad or Quiet Saddle Horse- We check our cattle on a quad. We gather our cattle horseback. Our cattle are very used to the quad and they are comfortable with it. During calving season we check each cow very well every day. If there is a problem we will saddle up and bring the cow to the corral.
- A good dog. Cows hide their calves to save them from predators. Sometimes they hide them well enough that even we can’t find them. If we are having a hard time finding a calf we will let the dogs off the quad to run around and it will typically make the cow just protective enough to where she will walk out in the direction of her calf and show us where he/she is.
- A flag whip. The name does not actually imply what this tool is used for. Never do we “whip” our cattle. During calving season this tool helps us to get the newborn calves up and headed towards the shade with their mother. It is mostly a directional tool but the noise it makes also incentivizes calves to remain on their feet and follow their mother to the shade. We like to take our calves into the shade so the heat doesn’t stress them too much, especially the first few days they are alive. If a calf is out in the 100+ degrees for too long, they will lose the urge to nurse. Nursing is one of the few things they need to master as a newborn.
- Bottle, nipple, and colostrum. When we get in a bind, for example: twins, a cow not accepting her calf, etc, these tools come in handy. If a cow is not “taking” or accepting her calf it is always our first choice to get the cow in and milk her. Cows produce colostrum just like humans do and those nutrients are IMPERATIVE for calves to get within the first 12 hours of birth. If we are unable to get the colostrum from the cow we will use store-bought powdered colostrum.
- OB straps or chains and a come-along. Things are intense and we are usually moving quickly when these are the tools we need. Needing OB straps or chains means that a cow is having trouble giving birth and we need to intervene in order to save a life. Just like humans, calves can be incorrectly positioned in the uterus. They can have a leg tucked back, be completely backwards, etc. Once we are able to get the calf positioned correctly inside the cow we will put the straps around the front legs and use the come-along to slowly pull the calf out.
As always, these tools are only used when necessary and they are specific to our ranch and our cattle. Every rancher has their own methods which takes into consideration things like type of cattle, the terrain, size of field, and past experiences. Our methods would not work everywhere but they work for us. We live by the rule of Mother Nature first, human intervention second.
For the other ranchers that follow, what are some of your most valuable tools you use during calving season?