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Confessions of a Gate Getter: The First-Calf Heifer

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

I haven’t had the best of nights, 

to be honest I’ve seen better.

I’m cold. I’m hungry. I’m sleepy, 

and I’m flat out frustrated with that first-calf heifer.


I’d put four heavies in the barn last night, 

waiting for their young to hit the dirt.

I’d been patient with them all evening,

I know labor without medication had to hurt.

The morning started relatively promising,

snow on the ground but no wind.

We expected four pairs of ears to tag at sunrise, 

three of four mamas held up the deal on their end.

But one of four was not so easy,

she bucked and wallered and bawled.

I’d threatened to pull her calf in the moonlight,

but with each warning she stalled.

She’d stand up, then back down,

she’d roar, moan and beller.

She’d roll and pound her hooves at the sky

like she was giving the stars the middle finger.

I let her carry on like this through the night, 

the dirty, rotten, raggedy olʼ shrew. 

But now the sun had risen,

and it was time for her to deliver life anew.

So my husband Lane and I threw on our boots,

for this huzzy’s calf must be retrieved.

We knew she’d put up a fight 

but this tired red heifer needed to be relieved. 

Up to the barn we trekked,

trudging through about a foot of snow. 

She was waiting for us in the second jug from the right,

pawing at the ground and putting on a show. 

That red wench was as fiery as her hide,

her eyes bewildered, her snout ferocious. 

Her tail was swished fiercely to and fro,

her entire presence was atrocious. 

I stood behind the fence in angst,

the heifer panting from the other side.

I looked at Lane and he nodded his head,

I opened the gate and thus began a wild ride. 

She’d take a run at one of us, 

we’d hop up and rest on the fence. 

Then she’d pivot to the other one,

and we’d repeat this saga – we had no defense. 

Our goal was to lure her into the head catch,

and for about 20 minutes we were unlucky. 

But then I heard Lane cuss and stomp,

and I knew that heifer was about to get even more bucky. 

“The human sacrifice” he called this move,

he ran up to her and got right in her face.

Taunting and jumping and yelling,

with his feet positioned, ready to race. 

She huffed and puffed and scowled,

that wretched hag took the bait. 

She reared back and chased after him,

Lane turned and yelped, “Open that gate!” 

I flung the gate open with haste,

I ran to the head catch, ready for attack. 

Lane maneuvered that heifer like a bull fighter,

her nose angrily nestled in his back. 

Lane burst through the chute headfirst.

The heifer followed behind him, right on cue. 

I dropped the latch and got the chains ready,

sadly, this escapade was not through.

With both feet out and water bag busted,

we knew this calf was anxious to meet the Earth.

Between the stress of labor and our chase,

the time was now – this heifer simply HAD to give birth. 

So, we hooked up the chains as best as we could,

gloves on, waiting for a contraction. 

For the first time all morning, that heifer stood calm and collected,

she just wasn’t ready for the action. 

Lane threw his hands up and mumbled some cursings,

I rolled my eyes and sighed aloud.

But then a thought popped into my head,

“Hey, maybe she doesn’t want a crowd.”

We backed off and watched from the tack room,

it took her a minute, but she finally had peace. 

Three pushes and that little bugger was out,

the heifer stood still, but bellered for her release. 

Bracing for impact, I unlatched the head catch,

she quietly and slowly waltzed toward her baby. 

She licked him clean and snuggled the calf,

it’s like she forgot she was supposed to be crazy. 

The calf stood after a little while, 

and his mama let him feed, it’s like she was in a motherhood daze. 

Me and Lane just stood in disbelief,

clothes tattered, faces muddied and minds utterly amazed.  

We left the pair to bond under the barn,

“I can’t believe she went wild then let him suckle,

I’ve never seen something so fickle,” I stated. 

Lane just grinned at the ground and let out a chuckle.

“What’re you laughing at?” I asked.

Lane met my gaze with a smile, the first of the morn’,

“That heifer, she was sour, then sweet…

reminds me of you when our daughter was born.”

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