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Calving tips & tales – for Jan. 18, 2010

Twins Galore

When we sent in this tip last spring our calving season was just about over and let me tell you, what a season it had been. But before I go into details I thought that I should let you know a little bit about us. My husband and I reside in Minnitaki, in Northwestern Ontario. Our herd is mostly Angus based with just about everything else added in — even a few Belted Galloway. We also have a few Boer goats running around.

Evan and I have been married for almost three years now but it was just after one year of marriage when we decided it was time to add to our own herd — a child of our own that is. We knew we were in for a large lifestyle change but we had no idea how busy our first year as parents would be. We were 21 weeks into the pregnancy when we had our first ultrasound. My husband and I had been waiting a long time to catch a glimpse of our little peanut for the first time. I lay down on the exam room bed and the doctor began his ultrasound. Now neither Evan nor I had ever had an ultrasound but we knew what we saw on the ultrasound screen was not quite right. We were getting a “Two for One Deal” as our doctor said, TWINS!! After the tears and shock were over excitement had set in. And on July 9, 2008 I gave birth to our beautiful babies. A girl named Charlie Marie and a boy named Levi Evan.

The summer flew by and our fall was quiet and quite wet. We brought the cows in from pasture and started to watch them shape up as the winter set in. The first breeding date that we had written down put our calving season to start around the 5th of March. Now like all farmers we speculate who will calve first and who will be the late cows to calve.

Evan had begun to do night checks as we had a few cows that were looking close. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and it was mighty cold outside so it is better to be safe than sorry. Evan was last out to check the cows around 2 a. m. and nothing was going on but around 5 a. m. we heard a cow bawl, a sound that you only hear when they have given birth. Evan and I shot out of bed as this meant we had a calf on the ground in -35 weather.

Our first cow to calve was a large Angus that has more milk than she knows what to do with. Well in this case it was a good thing as she was not finished calving. She too was having twins for the first time. We brought momma and both babies into the barn and realized that the first born, a large bull calf, was not doing too well. He was cold, very cold. I mean I would be too if I was dropped in the snowbank when it was -35. The heifer calf was doing very well but we had to help out the baby bull.

We didn’t think blow dryers in the heated barn were enough for this Popsicle so into the house he came. He lay on the kitchen floor shaking like a leaf. We milked his mother and bottle fed him in the house until he was warm enough to venture back out with his mom and sister. But before this happened I couldn’t resist the urge of the photo opportunity that presented itself. Our babies with their first calf!

Two weeks later we only had 10 calves on the ground. It was looking like a slow season. But this was all about to change. We had a cow calve throughout the night and we put her into the barn. We woke up around 7 a. m. and I set Charlie and Levi in their highchairs to get them their breakfast while Evan went out to check on the new mom as well as two young cows that were very close to calving. I had given the babies their bottles and was about to start their cereal and fruit when Evan came into the house saying that GiGi had calved and had a very small set of twins, and that Lola was also starting to calve as she had her water bag out. Now our barn isn’t that far from the house but I told Evan to take the cellphone with him just in case he needed a hand putting GiGi and her new twins in the calving pens. The babies had finished eating and were playing in their chairs so I started to work on eartags when the phone rang. It was Evan, “Better make two tags for 90M. She had another baby.” Now this was the cow that had calved throughout the night. And even though she had a large calf I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised that she had twins as this would be her third set out of six calves. By this point Evan really needed me outside so I made a call to Grandma Debney and she came over to watch the babies for a while.

We were helping out the new moms in the barn when Lola had pushed out her calf so we left her outside to mother up as it was warm out. But instead of mothering up she kept lying down and spinning around. Evan and I looked at each other and thought No Way! We couldn’t possibly have three sets of twins in one day, let alone by noon. But we did! Lola gave us another healthy set of twins.

Who would have thought that out of 12 cows we would have had four sets of twins already? By this time we had already been making the jokes that we would be selling the water as the new fertility drug. A friend of ours came over one night for supper and a drink and he too was joking with us about the high fertility rate on this place. But I guess he should have brought his own ice cubes as he went home to check his cows only to find that he too had two sets of twins. Now for sure we were selling the water!!

We had a few more calves born and all was running smoothly. By the time of 15th cow calved we were relieved as this meant we were almost halfway done the season. 35M was our 15th cow to calve and we brought her into the barn only to discover that her calf looked surprisingly small to us. With our luck and all joking aside Evan and I thought that just for kicks we would check her to see if she had another calf inside even though this cow had never had twins before. We put her in the head catch and I held her tail while Evan felt inside. “No friggin’ way!!” he exclaimed. “There’s another one!” This putting our grand total at five sets of twins out of 15 cows.

We consider ourselves very lucky that we had these calves. How often do you get five sets of twins out of 26 cows? Let alone five healthy sets.

So remember, if you ever come to visit… bring your own water!

Linda, Evan, Charlie & Levi Debney ELD Farm Minnitaki, Ont.

Four tips in one

My calving tips are:

Straw is the cheapest medicine you can buy in calving season — keep ’em high and dry.

Extra Strength Tylenol seems to work wonders on sick calves. We push two or three down the throat with rubber-gloved fingers.

Nothing seems to treat early scours like Pepto-Bismol. I use a syringe with a long plastic snout available at most feed stores for drenching small animals. The bottle usually has a small plastic measuring cup on top — one of those morning and night clears things up in a couple of days.

When a good cow loses her calf the easiest way to get her to adopt a new one is to skin her dead one and tie a piece about 18 x 18 inches to the new calf’s body. A few sniffs from mom has her believing it’s her own calf.

Good health to all.

Alberta Kealey Venosta, Que.

Perfume for mother and calf

When a cow loses her calf at birth or even some days later, we always try to give her another calf — either from a set of twins or from a neighbour’s herd. We take a regular perfume and rub some on the cow’s nose and put some over the calf. Make sure to put it on his back and tail.

Sometimes it works right away. Sometimes it takes longer. But it really works.

Walter Ammann Goodfare, Alta.

The many uses of latex gloves

We picked up a box of short latex gloves a few years ago. My husband wanted them to put over the shoulder-length plastic gloves when pulling calves. The latex gloves certainly do a good job with that, but I started using them for many other things.

One day I clued in to the fact that my work gloves were just crawling with germs (both inside and out). Then I thought about how many times a day I could be spreading disease from calf to calf to calf just by working with them. I keep a few pairs in my coveralls when I’m in the pens during calving. Latex gloves provide excellent dexterity, and they’re cheap disease protection. A $25 box lasts us two to three years. I keep the clean ones in my right pocket and used ones turned inside out in the left. I make sure the used gloves go in the garbage instead of dropping them in the pen. The used ones could still spread disease and calves seem to chew on anything they’re not supposed to.

Here are a few ways I use them:

-When I stick my finger in a calf’s mouth to check if it’s warm or if it sucks.
-Getting a calf sucking on a cow (your hands don’t get sticky and they stay warmer).
-Checking the temperature of sick calves.
-Rehydrating (stomach tubing) and giving boluses to sick calves.
-Putting salve on a chapped udder.
-Working on water bowls. (Your hands might not be warm, but they’re less cold because they’re dry.)
-Moving calves that have scours.
-Assisting during calving (holding the tail, pulling, catching the baby). Leather gloves lose grip when wet, and have no grip once the fluid is frozen.
-Removing stitches, treating abscesses, handling deads.
-I also use them in the house for polishing shoes, painting, etc.

We still use disinfection and antibiotic practices that we’ve used for years, but we think that consistently using latex gloves has significantly decreased communicable disease in young calves. This reduces the expense, labour and heartache that goes with disease in young calves.

P. S. I have used the shoulder-length gloves (doubled with the fingers folded or tied) in a pinch when I didn’t have a container for colostrum I milked from the cow. They’re also great for fecal samples; just grab, slide off and knot the sample inside the glove.

Lorie Dean Morse, Sask.

Spring calving

Sebastian Cimetta Colborne, Ont.

Ink the noses

My calving tips are:

1. Using green tattoo ink on the calves’ noses can settle the question of whether they have sucked the cow. It has worked for us in the past. If you are not there to watch, at least you know that the calves have been in the right general area due to the green ink on the cow’s udder and teats.

2. When you notice calves licking dirt use what they call “white mud” (diatomaceous earth) in low tubs. This is another tip that has worked for us in the past.

Cheryl Schleger Prince Albert, Sask.

Then and now

Our friend Nancy fell in love with one of our heifers and named her Annabell. She bought her from us, but the calf stayed with our replacements. They were all bred and most were the first in our herd to calve.

Annabell was the only first-timer left to calve, so we were watching her closely. On May 15, late in the day, it was cold and wet. We phoned Nancy and told her to get here fast.

We told her, “We don’t know what you want to do with your heifer.” She thought the worst.

She saw one calf and asked, “Is it dead?” She walked farther and saw two babies — definitely not dead. Nancy went into action, screaming, dancing and yahooing.

We had to get them into the barn and the wheelbarrow seemed the solution. Nancy worked on the calves, rubbing them down and warming them up in the straw. Bob and I brought Annabell in. She sniffed but didn’t lick.

We left them together for the night but early next morning they hadn’t sucked. So we got Annabell into the squeeze gate to be milked. Nancy’s “girls” got some mik, their needles and eartags and were on their feet.

Annabell would let them suck when she was in the squeeze, but wasn’t interested in standing and didn’t have much milk.

What now? One of our cows lost her calf a couple days earlier. When we brought her home and introduced her to the twins, they were hers. She wasn’t even very happy that Nancy wanted to fuss over her girls.

She went to pasture, raised the twins and in early November they came back home. Sure look different in six months.

Marion and Bob Webb Shelburne, Ont.

The lost calving season

It was the evening of March 9, about a week before the start of calving. We had come to the end of a very busy day. With the help of neighbours and friends, we had put 200 cows through the chute, and sorted the first calf heifers into their calving pen. At 9:15, all the chores were done, my husband, Brian, had gone to bed, and I decided it was a beautiful evening for a walk.

The weather was mild, and the temperature still above freezing. And, it was time I got into calving mode. There was the possibility a calf could come early, especially after the cows had jostled and pushed through the chute.

I put on my gumboots, not my footwear of choice, but what else was there to wear, when my walk would take me through muck and water? I walked down the ice-covered lane, past 84 last-year’s calves, sleeping in the trees in a field to my right, and went through the gate into the calving field, a hillside covering several acres. A week previously, Brian had plowed the hillside free of snow, to give the cows a dry place to calve. Some areas had dried out well, others hadn’t, and patches of ice were still evident. With the thawing weather during the day, mud had slid over the ice.

I walked up through the field, checking cows sleeping in groups here and there. The cows were used to my walking amongst them, and they didn’t bother getting up. The heifers, on the other hand, scrambled up as I checked their pen. It takes a year before they decide they can ignore me.

I was up at the far side of the field, perhaps a quarter of a mile away from home, when I slipped and fell heavily on a patch of mud-covered ice. I thought I had sprained my left ankle, but soon realized it was broken. I sat on the hillside, trying to decide what to do.

Initially, I thought I would stay right where I was. Brian wouldn’t wake up till 5:30 or 6. It would be a long night, but I wasn’t going to freeze to death. However, after sitting for a while, my clothes and gloves became wet, and I decided I had to get out of there. I tried crawling on my knees, but it was much too painful. I tried yelling, and was answered by the neighbourhood coyotes. I had no real hope of Brian hearing me over a quarter-mile, as he often couldn’t hear me from the next room. The noise finally attracted our dogs, Katy and Snoopy, who ordinarily weren’t allowed to follow me into the calving field. From time to time, I was able to warm my hands in Snoopy’s fur, as I had discarded my wet gloves.

I found I could move by putting my legs straight out in front of me, and lifting my body with my arms, moving forward about a foot at a time. The gumboots that had caused the problem now offered some support for my ankle. I worried the cows might take some exception to my crawling on the ground. What if they stampeded over me? But they all lay peacefully as I passed. However, the calves sleeping in the adjoining field took one look at the apparition coming toward them under the wire gate, and in one mind, bolted down to the other end.

My goal was to reach the barn well house at the base of the hill, which was heated by a 250-watt bulb. I thought I could sit out the rest of the night in some warmth, on a one-foot ledge by the door. The previous fall, we hired an excavator to increase the depth of the well, and the area around it was straight gumbo. I had a terrible time standing up to open the door, and was now covered in muck from head to toe.

I sat in the doorway and began to shake uncontrollably. I also had some fear about falling into the open four-foot culvert that was right beside me. I had to get home somehow, but didn’t want to continue on the ground, because the lane in front of me was sheer ice. I pulled myself up, hanging on to a rail fence close by, and discovered my boot was now acting as a brace, making it possible for me to move, taking tiny steps.

I finally reached home, dragged myself up two concrete stairs, crawled across the mudroom, and pulled myself into my kitchen chair. It was midnight.

I phoned Brian upstairs. He helped me out of my muddy clothes and gave me a mugful of boiling water. After I was half-decently clean, he called our neighbours, Peter and Elie. Elie, a physiotherapist, bound up my ankle, and all three of them managed to haul me out to the truck.

Brian drove me to the hospital. We had to wait in our truck for about 20 minutes because the hospital staff called an ambulance to move me from the truck into Emergency. I found that very disappointing. I managed to drag myself home over a quarter-mile, and now I required two people to move me a few feet.

I had some illusion that my ankle would be put in a cast and I would be home by morning, but X-rays showed I had two broken bones, one on each side of the ankle, which would require pinning and plating, so I was admitted for surgery. The surgery was performed two days later, and two days after that, I returned home. Driving by the calving field, I spotted a cow trying to have a backwards calf. That is the sum total of my helping with calving that year.

I did gain a new appreciation for people who are confined to wheelchairs. The basement and the upstairs bedrooms were out of bounds to me, as was the mudroom, its floor being four inches lower than the kitchen. I never realized how many items in our house were now stored out of my reach. I often found myself stranded at the kitchen table or on the chesterfield when someone moved my wheelchair or walker across the room out of the way. I read more books and watched more television than I thought was possible. Because my left ankle was broken, I couldn’t drive, as our trucks had standard transmissions.

When May rolled around, I was back to helping with sorting and branding, and eventually got back to driving. Any other year, I had a very good idea what each calf looked like by turnout time, but that year they were strangers to me.

That fall, we bought a cellphone, and, in the ensuing years, our cell service has improved. I can’t say I remember the phone all the time. I have learned to wear cleats on my boots and leave a note on the table to say when I went out and where. I know it is a

Ink the noses

My calving tips are:

1. Using green tattoo ink on the calves’ noses can settle the question of whether they have sucked the cow. It has worked for us in the past. If you are not there to watch, at least you know that the calves have been in the right general area due to the green ink on the cow’s udder and teats.

2. When you notice calves licking dirt use what they call “white mud” (diatomaceous earth) in low tubs. This is another tip that has worked for us in the past.

Cheryl Schleger Prince Albert, Sask.

Then and now

Our friend Nancy fell in love with one of our heifers and named her Annabell. She bought her from us, but the calf stayed with our replacements. They were all bred and most were the first in our herd to calve.

Annabell was the only first-timer left to calve, so we were watching her closely. On May 15, late in the day, it was cold and wet. We phoned Nancy and told her to get here fast.

We told her, “We don’t know what you want to do with your heifer.” She thought the worst.

She saw one calf and asked, “Is it dead?” She walked farther and saw two babies — definitely not dead. Nancy went into action, screaming, dancing and yahooing.

We had to get them into the barn and the wheelbarrow seemed the solution. Nancy worked on the calves, rubbing them down and warming them up in the straw. Bob and I brought Annabell in. She sniffed but didn’t lick.

We left them together for the night but early next morning they hadn’t sucked. So we got Annabell into the squeeze gate to be milked. Nancy’s “girls” got some mik, their needles and eartags and were on their feet.

Annabell would let them suck when she was in the squeeze, but wasn’t interested in standing and didn’t have much milk.

What now? One of our cows lost her calf a couple days earlier. When we brought her home and introduced her to the twins, they were hers. She wasn’t even very happy that Nancy wanted to fuss over her girls.

She went to pasture, raised the twins and in early November they came back home. Sure look different in six months.

Marion and Bob Webb Shelburne, Ont.

The lost calving season

It was the evening of March 9, about a week before the start of calving. We had come to the end of a very busy day. With the help of neighbours and friends, we had put 200 cows through the chute, and sorted the first calf heifers into their calving pen. At 9:15, all the chores were done, my husband, Brian, had gone to bed, and I decided it was a beautiful evening for a walk.

The weather was mild, and the temperature still above freezing. And, it was time I got into calving mode. There was the possibility a calf could come early, especially after the cows had jostled and pushed through the chute.

I put on my gumboots, not my footwear of choice, but what else was there to wear, when my walk would take me through muck and water? I walked down the ice-covered lane, past 84 last-year’s calves, sleeping in the trees in a field to my right, and went through the gate into the calving field, a hillside covering several acres. A week previously, Brian had plowed the hillside free of snow, to give the cows a dry place to calve. Some areas had dried out well, others hadn’t, and patches of ice were still evident. With the thawing weather during the day, mud had slid over the ice.

I walked up through the field, checking cows sleeping in groups here and there. The cows were used to my walking amongst them, and they didn’t bother getting up. The heifers, on the other hand, scrambled up as I checked their pen. It takes a year before they decide they can ignore me.

I was up at the far side of the field, perhaps a quarter of a mile away from home, when I slipped and fell heavily on a patch of mud-covered ice. I thought I had sprained my left ankle, but soon realized it was broken. I sat on the hillside, trying to decide what to do.

Initially, I thought I would stay right where I was. Brian wouldn’t wake up till 5:30 or 6. It would be a long night, but I wasn’t going to freeze to death. However, after sitting for a while, my clothes and gloves became wet, and I decided I had to get out of there. I tried crawling on my knees, but it was much too painful. I tried yelling, and was answered by the neighbourhood coyotes. I had no real hope of Brian hearing me over a quarter-mile, as he often couldn’t hear me from the next room. The noise finally attracted our dogs, Katy and Snoopy, who ordinarily weren’t allowed to follow me into the calving field. From time to time, I was able to warm my hands in Snoopy’s fur, as I had discarded my wet gloves.

I found I could move by putting my legs straight out in front of me, and lifting my body with my arms, moving forward about a foot at a time. The gumboots that had caused the problem now offered some support for my ankle. I worried the cows might take some exception to my crawling on the ground. What if they stampeded over me? But they all lay peacefully as I passed. However, the calves sleeping in the adjoining field took one look at the apparition coming toward them under the wire gate, and in one mind, bolted down to the other end.

My goal was to reach the barn well house at the base of the hill, which was heated by a 250-watt bulb. I thought I could sit out the rest of the night in some warmth, on a one-foot ledge by the door. The previous fall, we hired an excavator to increase the depth of the well, and the area around it was straight gumbo. I had a terrible time standing up to open the door, and was now covered in muck from head to toe.

I sat in the doorway and began to shake uncontrollably. I also had some fear about falling into the open four-foot culvert that was right beside me. I had to get home somehow, but didn’t want to continue on the ground, because the lane in front of me was sheer ice. I pulled myself up, hanging on to a rail fence close by, and discovered my boot was now acting as a brace, making it possible for me to move, taking tiny steps.

I finally reached home, dragged myself up two concrete stairs, crawled across the mudroom, and pulled myself into my kitchen chair. It was midnight.

I phoned Brian upstairs. He helped me out of my muddy clothes and gave me a mugful of boiling water. After I was half-decently clean, he called our neighbours, Peter and Elie. Elie, a physiotherapist, bound up my ankle, and all three of them managed to haul me out to the truck.

Brian drove me to the hospital. We had to wait in our truck for about 20 minutes because the hospital staff called an ambulance to move me from the truck into Emergency. I found that very disappointing. I managed to drag myself home over a quarter-mile, and now I required two people to move me a few feet.

I had some illusion that my ankle would be put in a cast and I would be home by morning, but X-rays showed I had two broken bones, one on each side of the ankle, which would require pinning and plating, so I was admitted for surgery. The surgery was performed two days later, and two days after that, I returned home. Driving by the calving field, I spotted a cow trying to have a backwards calf. That is the sum total of my helping with calving that year.

I did gain a new appreciation for people who are confined to wheelchairs. The basement and the upstairs bedrooms were out of bounds to me, as was the mudroom, its floor being four inches lower than the kitchen. I never realized how many items in our house were now stored out of my reach. I often found myself stranded at the kitchen table or on the chesterfield when someone moved my wheelchair or walker across the room out of the way. I read more books and watched more television than I thought was possible. Because my left ankle was broken, I couldn’t drive, as our trucks had standard transmissions.

When May rolled around, I was back to helping with sorting and branding, and eventually got back to driving. Any other year, I had a very good idea what each calf looked like by turnout time, but that year they were strangers to me.

That fall, we bought a cellphone, and, in the ensuing years, our cell service has improved. I can’t say I remember the phone all the time. I have learned to wear cleats on my boots and leave a note on the table to say when I went out and where. I know it is a

common practice during calving. One person checks cows at night, the other sleeps. We went for years that way. I have always considered myself “at home” anywhere on our home quarter, but when I broke my ankle, home never looked so far away.

Louise DeMarni and Brian Foley Kamloops, B.C.

Fixing the flashlight

We all know what it’s like at the tail end of a 60-day calving season with the usual 10 or so “stragglers” to keep an eye on and being just a tad easily agitated from lack of sleep. Cow checks become a race to return to the warm comfort of bed to catch a couple extra hours of sleep.

The alarm clock jangles at 4 a.m. and you drag yourself out for a quick cow check as there are a couple real close and even though you’re up a couple in numbers with the twins, you still don’t want to chance losing one. As you pull on your parka you automatically reach for your old flashlight. You’ve been going out at night so often the last couple of months, you find yourself reaching for the flashlight at 2 in the afternoon.

The new moon is on as you step outside and it’s blacker than the inside of a cow. You stride briskly towards the barnyard so as not to waste any time. You reach the bedding mound and the girls are laying there contentedly chewing their cud.

No one raises so much as an eyebrow, because you’ve been there so often that you’re one of the bunch. As you shine the flashlight around it winks out and you shake it to get it to come back on. Now just a quick look in the feedyard and then back to bed. Your flashlight goes out again and shaking doesn’t work so you flick the switch and you have light again.

Over in the farthest corner stands some old gummer of a cow and you feel like ignoring her but you had better take a look, seeing as how you are here. As you proceed in her direction the light goes out again and before you can get it back on you trip on a barnyard speed bump (frozen cow pie) and fall down bruising your knuckles.

This made the light come back on and you reach your destination with a throbbing hand and come face to face with a cow that’s obviously doing nothing and wearing a grin like a wolf with a bellyful of sheep. Disgusted you turn to head for the house and strike off faster than ever.

You’re carrying the flashlight in your good hand when it goes out again. Not being ambidextrous you switch hands to try and get the light working without missing a stride. Your foot hooks a piece of twine frozen into the ground and you crash to the ground ramming your knee into a lump of manure and smashing your hand with the flashlight a second time. The flashlight comes on real bright and quickly goes out and you know you aren’t going to be able to get it to come back on.

You’re heading past the shop now and step inside for a minute. You lay the flashlight on the anvil and take a

common practice during calving. One person checks cows at night, the other sleeps. We went for years that way. I have always considered myself “at home” anywhere on our home quarter, but when I broke my ankle, home never looked so far away.

Louise DeMarni and Brian Foley Kamloops, B.C.

Fixing the flashlight

We all know what it’s like at the tail end of a 60-day calving season with the usual 10 or so “stragglers” to keep an eye on and being just a tad easily agitated from lack of sleep. Cow checks become a race to return to the warm comfort of bed to catch a couple extra hours of sleep.

The alarm clock jangles at 4 a.m. and you drag yourself out for a quick cow check as there are a couple real close and even though you’re up a couple in numbers with the twins, you still don’t want to chance losing one. As you pull on your parka you automatically reach for your old flashlight. You’ve been going out at night so often the last couple of months, you find yourself reaching for the flashlight at 2 in the afternoon.

The new moon is on as you step outside and it’s blacker than the inside of a cow. You stride briskly towards the barnyard so as not to waste any time. You reach the bedding mound and the girls are laying there contentedly chewing their cud.

No one raises so much as an eyebrow, because you’ve been there so often that you’re one of the bunch. As you shine the flashlight around it winks out and you shake it to get it to come back on. Now just a quick look in the feedyard and then back to bed. Your flashlight goes out again and shaking doesn’t work so you flick the switch and you have light again.

Over in the farthest corner stands some old gummer of a cow and you feel like ignoring her but you had better take a look, seeing as how you are here. As you proceed in her direction the light goes out again and before you can get it back on you trip on a barnyard speed bump (frozen cow pie) and fall down bruising your knuckles.

This made the light come back on and you reach your destination with a throbbing hand and come face to face with a cow that’s obviously doing nothing and wearing a grin like a wolf with a bellyful of sheep. Disgusted you turn to head for the house and strike off faster than ever.

You’re carrying the flashlight in your good hand when it goes out again. Not being ambidextrous you switch hands to try and get the light working without missing a stride. Your foot hooks a piece of twine frozen into the ground and you crash to the ground ramming your knee into a lump of manure and smashing your hand with the flashlight a second time. The flashlight comes on real bright and quickly goes out and you know you aren’t going to be able to get it to come back on.

You’re heading past the shop now and step inside for a minute. You lay the flashlight on the anvil and take a

four-pound hammer in your good hand and flatten that “puppy” so it can slide under a door and then head for the house and the comfort of bed.

The sky is getting light in the East as you slide your battered body under the covers. Your wife asks, “Is anything wrong? I saw a light on in the shop.” To which you reply, “Nawhh, I was just fixing the flashlight.”

Joe and Doreen Reinhardt Westlock, Alta.

How to fool a stubborn cow

This is a story of how my mom and dad tricked a real stubborn cow into the calving pen.

One year we had this cow, named Peter, that would not go into the panels. She was a real wild thing and you couldn’t even come near her with a 50-foot pole. Every time we would come to check the cows or even come to feed them, she would run away and hide in her corner but always watching us.

None of us were brave enough to go behind her to chase her because she was just plain crazy. But we had to get her into the panels. So one day my mom and dad thought this would be the day that they would get her into the panels. They thought that if they would put a bale of hay into the panels she would go in just like all the other cows.

So they waited. Some cows went into the panels but not Peter. So they went inside the calving cabin, and waited and when my mom looked out the window to see if she had gone inside, Peter was looking at the calving cabin. Peter knew that my mom and dad went inside and were watching her. All this time the truck was parked beside the cows, and Peter knew that if the truck is still here then my mom and dad were here too.

My dad had this bright idea. He would stay there and hide while my mom would take the truck home. While my mom was driving away, Peter was watching her and my dad had an idea where he could hide. It wasn’t something simple like behind a tree or a bale. Oh no, he had to be creative. He went to hide in an empty mini bag that was once used for oats.

He didn’t even have time to finish cutting his “spy holes’’ into the side of the mini bag when Peter ran straight into the panels. Dad was right behind her, closing the panels.

It was a good thing we have buffalo panels set up and not regular panels because that would have never held her. You needed buffalo panels for Peter.

She didn’t stay that much longer at our place. She took a little trip to a special hotel called an Auction Mart.

If you’re ever in need of a creative disguise; use a empty mini bag. Full ones tend to attract the cows. Happy Calving Season!

Sheila Dmyterko

First assist

My name is Steve Ganczar and I own and operate Plow Boy Acres just northwest of Dauphin, Man. My cow-calf operation consists of Black and Red Angus, Simmental Angus Cross, Charolais, and Hereford cows crossed to a Red Angus bull. Calving starts mid-March and goes to the end of April. Two years ago I purchased two Black Angus heifers from a friend of mine. They both calved the first time by themselves with no problems.

This past spring, the first Black Angus had a bull calf with no assistance. A couple of days later, about 9 in the evening I noticed the other Black Angus cow was off in the corner of the pen. Not to disturb her, I walked along the outside of the pen and noticed she had one leg sticking out of her up to the knee.

Since purchasing my first cows in the winter of 2004, I have not had to assist any animals with any calving issues. As a matter of fact, my dad bought me a new set of pulling straps in 2004 and they were still in the original package. As I walked to the house to get my family to give me a hand getting her into the chute, Dad commented, “guess you are finally going to try out those straps!”

Spring 2009 was very wet in the Parkland region and I had a sizable puddle of mud between the calving pens and the handling system. We would have the cow going towards the gate until we hit the mud puddle. We would get hung up while she walked right past us back into the pen. For the next hour, four of us tried to get that Black Angus cow into the handling system to help her calve with no luck. She is not a wild cow, actually my mom babies the cows and they are more like pets. So, it was just very clear that she didn’t want our help.

By this time I noticed that the leg was no longer sticking out of her so we decided to go to the house for a break and leave her alone. About an hour later, my mom and I grabbed the flashlight and went to the bedding area to assess the situation again. She wasn’t with the rest of the herd so we headed to the feeding area. We walked around one of the round bales just in time to see a shiny new 75-pound steer calf flop out of her. After checking to make sure the calf was OK, we left the anxious mom to take care of her calf.

Another calving season in the books and my pulling straps are still in the bag. From what I hear from ranchers I talk to, this is a fairly rare situation and is a story worth sharing. Good luck to everyone in the 2010 calving season.

Steve Ganczar Dauphin, Man.

A fostering tip

Here’s a little tip we use to get reluctant new moms to accept their new babies…

My wife and I run a mixed herd of purebred Hereford and Hereford/ Angus cross cows and the farm has recently been certified in the Verified Beef Program. Throughout the summer months and into the fall we feed the cows rolled oats and barley as a treat. The cows know and associate us walking out with a few buckets that they’re going to get a treat of grain.

We continue this practice a bit throughout the winter but start up again in the spring when calving time starts. This little idea of giving the cows a treat with rolled grain has paid off a few times when we have had heifers calve but, being new moms, they were reluctant to start licking their babies. So we had an idea of taking a bit of rolled grain and putting a small pile just beside the calf and dam, sprinkling some more over the back and side of the baby. Well the moms are so preoccupied with eating and licking up the grain that before they know it they are licking their baby and everything starts to go according to plan. We have tried some store-bought remedies but the grain trick has worked every time.

We also use grain to coax stubborn cows into the maternity pen head gate. Just a little bit in a pail placed in front of the head gate and the cow walks right up.

George and Mavis Giersch Tomslake, B.C.

 

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