The first day of spring arrived in Montana with a cold wind, light snow, and a high temperature of 14 degrees, not what we had hoped for. Calving has been underway on our ranch for nearly a month. During the last few days we had enjoyed 45 degree temperatures, snow melting , running water, the smell of damp earth and a hint of green grass starting. The corrals where we had the cows waiting to calve quickly turned to a muddy mess, made worse by the churning of the cows cloven hooves walking around. Putting out straw piles for them to lay on lasted only a short time, so we moved the cows out to our grassy hillside lot in sight of the house and barn. It was warmer and they were doing well there on the clean ground, until “spring” arrived.
Now with the cold and frozen ground returning, (for a only a few days hopefully), we are back to an around the clock schedule of checking the expectant cows. The cold temperatures and wind can chill a slippery, wet, newborn calf relatively quickly. Because it is better for them to be outside in the fresh air for the most part, we only bring the cows in labor into the barn. There they are given a clean stall and straw to calve on. We monitor the heifers (first time to have a calf cows) closely, in case they need assistance with the birth and to make sure the calves are able to get up and nurse on their own. The cows first milk is called colostrum and is naturally filled with nutrients that are designed to get the calf’s stomach started digesting milk and assisting their immune system. It is important to the newborn to receive this milk within hours of their birth to give them strength, as well.
This process is always a part of our spring routine here on our ranch and surrounding ranches in Montana, where there cattle outnumber people three to one. We are looking forward to warmer temperatures and green grass for the cattle to graze soon. For now we continue to roll out hay for them to eat.