Calving Season: The Cute, The Sad, and the Smelly

Calving season is upon us! It is once again time for sleepless nights, hard work, rewards and heartbreak. To date this year I’ve pulled five calves and have done one c-section. This will only ramp up during February, when more people start with calving their heifers (cows that are giving birth for the first time).

Folks that aren’t familiar with this time of year might wonder why is calving season such an event. Calving is the most difficult process a cow and her offspring go through during their life together. Calving is where things can go wrong and result in the death of both the cow and the calf. Because of this, ranchers spend more time with their cattle during calving than any time of the year. We spend more time with the cows than we spend with our spouses, unless you calve with your spouse then you get lots of real “quality time”.

Because cows like being inconvenient, often they calve at night. We can somewhat change this behavior by what time of day we feed them, but Murphy’s Law seems to be a more powerful force. As a result, cows that look like they might calve get checked throughout the night. This means that a rancher will wake up and check cows at midnight, 4 a.m., and again at 7 a.m. Then the cows will be checked again throughout the day. Although the vast majority of cows have their calves on their own, taking the precaution of checking them means that the handful that need help get it in a timely fashion.

Now I know I propagate this idea with the pictures Carolyn and I put up on this blog and Facebook that when calves are born they are this adorable little bovine. They are just a bit damp, but nothing too gross. Seldom do we discuss this part.

Placenta, amniotic fluid, and calving blood

Calving is not a clean process. Remember, a cow eats this after the calf comes out.

Birthing in any species is gross. Sorry, there is no way around it. Of course, it doesn’t stop me from jumping into this process to help when I need to, but it doesn’t change the fact it is gross. So before we spend the next few months discussing the high points of calving, I’d encourage you to watch this informational youtube video on the part we often forget to mention.