Calving season continues to unfold on our ranch, and while the bitter cold and unrelenting winter hasn’t been the most fun to work in, this is still one of my favorite parts about being in the cow-calf business.
There’s something about walking to the barn to check for newborn calves — the crunch of your boots as they press into the snow, the peaceful silence of the cold winter air, the fog of your breath puffing in small clouds, the hum of the heater in the barn as you approach, the blast of warmth that hits you as you open the calving barn door and the calm of the barn as expecting cows gaze curiously at your entrance.
Of course, discovering a newborn calf lying in the straw is the best part of all. Even better, watching its mother tend to the new life, licking the calf from head to hoof and encouraging it to stand up and suck for the first time.
And when you see that calf finally take its first wobbly stance and make its way to the udder to drink that first serving of colostrum, you feel a sigh of relief. Everything has gone smoothly, and now if you can just peak to see if it’s a bull or a heifer, you can head back to the house to make a tag and let the new pair bond and do their thing.
But waxing poetic about calving doesn’t do complete justice to the reality. On the flip side, it can be an exhausting, emotionally-draining, never-ending season where things go wrong, the weather doesn’t cooperate and your faith in why you’re in the business is tested by the hour.
However, you know you’re in the right business where you’re just as excited about the 100th calf as you are about the first. It’s a season of long days and even longer nights (especially if you’re calving in the winter or spring in the northern states), but it’s also a season of new beginnings, new life and seeing your hard work and planning come to fruition.
Ultimately, it’s all made possible because of the females on the ranch. From the first-calf heifer to the old matriarch, we ask a lot of our herd. We need cows that are maternal, feminine, good milkers, docile and easy keeping, with longevity, breeding consistency and performance, as well.
This past month, we have celebrated these heifers and cows in a photo contest titled, “Next Generation Females.” Sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), this photo contest highlights the foundation females of the ranch and honors the work they do each year.
Our wonderful readers submitted a gorgeous collection of photographs, which we compiled into a gallery. View the photographs by clicking here.
From there, we narrowed down the entries to 15 finalists, and we asked all of you to help select the four best photographers in that group.
Voting will remain open until March 11, and you can vote daily for your favorite four images. The four photographers who receive the most votes will win $50 VISA gift cards. Plus, three lucky voters will be selected to win a BEEF cap. Winners will be announced on March 12.
Good luck to our finalists! If you would like to help drum up votes for your favorite image, please share this blog post or the finalist photo gallery on social media and ask your friends to vote. Thanks for your participation!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.