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Fall Calving?

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Calving season is here in Montana. My family has calved out around 100 cows in the past few weeks, and it’s been a wild ride. However, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

I don’t want to bore readers with the same things they hear over and over again from ranchers about calving. 

This time, I want to talk about something I haven’t ever really noticed for the last 25 years of my life – something I have only started to notice in 2023 – which is just how similar the pregnancy, labor and postpartum is in cattle and in humans.

In recent years, many of my friends have given birth to children. Although I, in addition to some of my friends, would make an off-handed joke comparing these new mothers to heavy heifers here and there, the correlation didn’t sink in until Jan. 12.

On Jan. 12, I hopped off a plane at Dallas Love Field and sat in the backseat of my grandparent’s SUV for two and a half hours, while I was headed home to Rosalie, Texas. This trip was significant for two reasons – the first being I planned to attend the first-ever bull sale put on by my dad, John Purviance. 

My dad has managed Woodland Ag, a Red Angus operation near the Red River in northeast Texas, since I’ve been in high school. And, after many long years, with the help of many others, he held the inaugural bull sale at Woodland Ag. My main reason for coming home was to help my dad out where I was needed. 

The second reason is because I had been holding in a secret for over two weeks, and I needed to get it off of my chest – I am pregnant.

On the night of Jan. 12, I told my parents, siblings and other members of my family Lane and I would be expanding our family this coming September. To say my family was excited is, well, a bit of an understatement. 

What I thought was hilarious, however, was my dad’s reaction. Of course, he gave me a big hug and wiped a few tears from his eyes, but as I showed them the very early ultrasound I had taken two weeks prior, he chuckled.

My mom gave him a look and asked, “Why are you laughing?” 

Dad said, “I probably shouldn’t even say this, but it’s just funny. Last week, we took some of the short-bred heifers in to be preg-checked before the sale, and the ultrasound looked pretty much exactly like that.”

I laughed, and then the bred-heifer jokes began. Now, keep in mind, I’m a pretty good sport about all of this. I make the jokes as well. I won’t get offended until someone starts calling me a dry cow later on down the road.

Once this connection was made, it was hard for me not to make it every time we talked about the upcoming calving season. And, now that we’re in the middle of it, I make the comparison every day.

I see these heifers who know something is going on, biologically speaking, but have no knowledge of what’s truly about to happen to them – just like me. I know there’s a baby, I can’t wait to meet the baby, but the birth of it all? 

I can talk to as many experienced mothers as I want. I can develop a plan with my doctor. I can even watch a birthing video if I feel like having nightmares for the next week of my life, but at the end of it all, I have no idea what’s going to happen in the delivery room, and I won’t know until it happens.

I see these heifers get up and move around with their water bag out. They stand up and lay down over and over again, and although I know if they’d just lay down they could have their calf no problem, they’re just doing what makes them comfortable.

I roll my eyes and cuss under my breath when a heifer acts a little ringy as we try to move her into our barn so she can give birth under shelter and not out in the snow, but I can’t really blame her. She’s clueless! She doesn’t know where she’s going. 

And, don’t even get me started on how they act when we’re trying to get them in the head catch to pull a backwards calf.

I laughed and told Lane the other day, “If you wanted to pull a baby out of me with some chains, I’d probably throw a fit too.”

The thing that really hits home with me, however, is seeing how these new mamas react after their calf is born. 

Some of them take to their calf and guard them like they’re the holy grail, some of them won’t even look at their calf and seem as if they don’t know they’ve just given birth and some of them kick their calf off every time they go to nurse. 

Again, we shake our heads and complain when a heifer doesn’t act perfectly around her calf, but c’mon, these girls are hormonal and clueless!

I guess what it all boils down to is this: in my pregnant, over-analyzing mind and hormonal heart strings, I have developed some sympathy for those bred heifers and new mamas.

People can call me soft, and I’ll agree. But, I think it just makes me a little more patient in the calving barn than I was last year. After all, this September will be my first time “fall calving,” and for Lane’s sake, everyone better hope I don’t turn into a crazy heifer.

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