New calf in the spring

The daze of calving time can make you contemplate odd things

Calving time always seems to put you in a sleep-deprived daze. But some good things can come out of that altered state.

Remember when you were young? You got tired because you are having too much fun. Then you get older and you get tired because you working too many hours. Oh, to be young again.

I am writing this in the daze. That doesn’t happen too often, but this time of year with calving in full gear and the sale catalog due, I find myself sleeping very few hours and none rolled together. Those of you who have gone through a long calving season in the spring know the feeling. After a little while you just seem to be operating in a daze. You start to transpose numbers on the calving sheet, you leave the tractor in gear when you get out and you leave the dome light on in the truck.

In my case, I have to guard myself from getting a little irritable when the daze enters that stage right before you catch your second wind. When you enter this danger zone of the daze, you have a tendency to bark at your kids, make unwarranted snide remarks to your spouse, scold your dog and jerk your horse’s mouth without cause or purpose.

Ironically, the calving daze produces moments of exhilaration. The coffee tastes better at 4:00 am, the cold air is like a jolt of electricity at 2 in the morning and you really celebrate the victories. Every calf that emerges from the warming box happy and toasty is just a little more rewarding than the fall calves that you just go out in the middle of the day to weigh and tag. 

While the daze tends to numb your senses and intellect, it awakens your awareness to unique things as well. You realize things like it’s the coldest right before the sun rises. Or that wearing your sweat pants for that quick heifer check is a very bad idea, especially when the wind is howling and you find that 15-minute check has turned into an hour of moving calving heifers. You learn how to go to sleep on the couch in 35 seconds, and how to run the snooze button on your Iphone alarm. You figure out that the spotlight should be plugged in and returned to its spot in the morning as well.

Just when the daze threatens to move into exhaustion, you usually get a couple days of warm weather and the gift of a second wind. That second wind gets you contemplating bigger picture things, like why six heifers all decide to start calving just as you are leaving for church or your kid’s basketball game.

I usually find myself making lots of promises during this time of year. More straw purchased, more lights, more corrals, more help, shorter calving seasons and always a commitment to calve later. We’ve had two blizzards that have caused us to move our calving season back nearly a month already. If it wasn’t for the beauty of black calves on green grass in the spring and the urge it gives you to start breeding, we’d probably be calving in the summer. 

Finally, the calving daze brings a quiet resolve and makes you virtually unflappable. The frozen water line, or the open gate that lets the first-calf heifer pasture co-mingle with the older cows loses its impact to irritate you. You simply move from one small crisis to another without so much as a questioning why. The best part of the daze is that it gets you to contemplating things you don’t consider the rest of the year – things like the beaches in Mexico or a getaway weekend. 

For all of you who have read this far, I congratulate you; you probably calve later, you have lots of help, or you live in much better climate.

The daze of calving even changes your politics and worldview. I may be skeptical of the claims made by the advocates for man-made global warming, but I really hope they are right. I usually don’t make requests, but if any of you hear me talking about moving to North Dakota or northern Montana in the summer, please just walk up and give me a good slap, because I must be in a calving daze.

The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and the Penton Agriculture Group.

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