Livestock publications this time of year often run articles on Spring calving. These articles always start with instructions to make sure your fences are tight, you are well rested, and that you are on good terms with a veterinarian so that when you call the vet at 2:00 AM with a calving issue he or she is going to pop right out of bed and drive 60 miles in a blizzard to your place to deliver a calf. Ha ha ha. Like that’s gonna happen.
The experts suggest writing a schedule so that everyone knows what time they will be on call. For example, the schedule I always taped to our refrigerator door said that from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM I was responsible. From 6:00 PM until 8:00 AM it was my wife’s turn to be on call. I considered this a fair division of labor because, as we all know, most heifers calve at night when it is most inconvenient and women are more rested and handle stress better than men. They are also much better at motherhood and all it entails, so it is only smart and fair that they be on call when a 600 pound heifer tries to give birth to a calf the size of a hay bale. A BIG bale.
The authors of these articles suggest you have a calving kit ready. Not surprisingly, the contents of my calving kit are much more practical than the ones suggested by professors who write such columns. The Docs say you should have a box of plastic sleeves handy in case the calf is upside down or breech. But we all know how easy the sleeves break. Instead I suggest that you take a clean finger and gently poke the heifer or cow in the eyeball and as if by magic her calf will automatically right itself. Or not.
Another thing they suggest is to have the proper lubricant on hand. I agree wholeheartedly and although yours may differ, I always preferred a good shot of Crown Royal as my lubricant. You’ll probably need a flashlight by your wife’s bedside so that she won’t turn on the overhead light and wake you up unnecessarily. Better yet, buy an old camper shell, teepee or cheap RV for the wife to stay in during the night so that she won’t wake you up every two hours and ruin your beauty sleep. Do you know what a shock it gives the system when the wife comes back to bed with frozen feet and “accidentally” jabs them into your warm, cozy body?
Lest you think I’m a heartless creep, I always showed my sensitive side by leaving an alarm clock, an energy bar and a pile of the Sudoku puzzles my wife likes to work so that she had something to do while she was waiting for a stubborn calf to enter the birth canal.
Women, you are going to need appropriate clothing including heavy jacket, vest, sweater, long underwear and hoody sweatshirt, although the price of the hoody might be cost prohibitive. But ladies, please do try to look as attractive as possible for you surely don’t want the first thing a calf sees in this world to be a scary figure in an old, muddy and moldy Carhartt jacket and a pair of sweatpants, do you? That could emotionally scar a calf for life.
Now for you men… you are going to need a gun in your calving kit. Not to put an animal down mind you, but to go hunting if things are a little slow on your shift.
Rounding out the contents of your calving kit you’ll need two logging chains and a tractor, a large supply of clean rags which can be found in the dirty clothes hamper, and some antibiotics. These aren’t for the cattle but for the wife in case she feels a little off. You DO NOT want her getting sick to the point where you have to switch shifts.
So good luck and remember Lee’s rules on calving: the smallest heifers will have the biggest calves, the meanest most ornery cows will always require the most assistance, and the one time you sleep through your shift will be when all the problems occur.