The tractors are safety stored away in the barn and the cows are munching away on veggies and corn stocks but that hasn’t allowed farmer hubs any downtime. The new year marks the official start of calving season for Sawyer Land & Cattle. Like most years, we’ve had a few momma cows jump the gun and deliver before the new year – but the majority will give birth to new calves between now and early March.
Like all expectant parents, the hubs is extra busy setting up the nursery. We have feeding pens that are partially covered, allowing cows the opportunity to escape from the elements. During the winter months, we use these covered areas to create birthing pens for mother cows and their new calves.
This year, the crew has been busy cleaning out the pens, laying fresh straw – harvested from our wheat fields – and ensuring the fence, lights and gates are all in working order.
If we see a cow is in labor, we’ll pull her into a pen so that she delivers in warm, dry conditions. We can also check to be sure the baby is up and nursing after delivery. It’s also important we get each new calf an ear tag bearing the same number and its mother as quickly as possible so that we can be sure mother and baby are sticking together. (This usually happens naturally but is not a guarantee.)
The hubs and his father will take turns checking on the mother cows and calves. Derek often takes the night shift (he’s a night owl by nature) and my father-in-law will take over about 4 p.m. (he’s naturally an early bird). Some nights there’s nothing happening. Other days, we’ll see up to a dozen different babies born – and some very tired farmers.
During this time, the mother cow’s diet is of the up most importance. We create a mix of grains that ensure mothers have the energy and nutrients they need to feed themselves and a growing calf.
Calving season is one of the busiest times on our farm but there is nothing like seeing new babies running, playing and growing. We’ll retain ownership of nearly all of the calves, moving them to fresh, green grass with their mothers in April and returning them to the farm in the fall. By then they will be 500-600 lbs. and full blown teenage cows, ready to leave their mothers. But before we get there, we have to help deliver a couple hundred healthy calves.
Happy 2017! Bring on the babies.