Palabras Pintorescas - Spring: My favorite time of the year

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By Editha Bartley

Springtime automatically brings up thoughts of new life and babies in particular. On this old ranch it is calving time and that is a favorite time for me.

My father doctor always said, “Put on the catcher’s mitt, but never interfere with Mother Nature unless there is obvious trouble with the birthing process.” How right he was, and he caught lots of babies in his 60 years of his private practice at Valmora.

I wasn’t very old when I watched (in awe, I might add) a calf being born here on our ranch. I never cease being amazed at the whole process, and some cows prove to be remarkable as mothers here. Because of so many factors, from weather to an accidental place the cow chooses to start that very final stage of labor, it only makes sense to check on her progress. I meandered through our very pregnant old lady cows recently and noticed our Rosie cow would probably calve within the next day or two. Rosie was orphaned as a baby, sold to us at our long-gone sale ring and put on a milk cow here, more than 10 years ago if my memory serves me correctly. She is the only white-face, polled Hereford cow in our mostly Angus herd and has no friends among the rest of the bunch. She is small for her breed but gives lots of rich milk, which is critical in calf development and growth.

Rosie’s first calf was born under our big sheds. Our cows come in at night when the spring weather is bad and she knew that from early on. She has always been one of the first cows to calve, and she always comes up to the meadow gate when her labor starts. I circled her twice out in the meadow and told her she didn’t have long now. I headed back toward the house and suddenly realized she was following me (I was on my four-wheeler) and she had no intentions, no plans to stop along the way. Fortunately, the gates were open so she went right into the upper corral, got a drink from the water tank, then went to the same place she always goes under the shed to have her baby.

Our veterinarian, Dr. Walton Hawk (who was an expert on cattle science) always said a cow should not be in labor for more than four hours. If it lasted much longer, there was a problem. Rosie had never been in labor more than four hours (we know this because she always calves during daylight hours, and we keep close track on her) and she has had at least eight calves.

The first six were bulls, bulls that became steers and weighed out heavier than any other steers here at six months old. When we finally realized what outstanding calves she had and how easily she had them, we told her she had to have a heifer or two for us. We keep  our good heifer cows for replacement cows because they have strong and healthy bloodlines.

Rosie had her first heifer two years ago, and last week she had her first baby lady cow. This little black Whiteface calf was up and sucking within 15 minutes, and Rosie had her all cleaned up and dried off in about an hour.

She was wracking around her mother almost immediately. So Rosie had a little time to rest after this incredible event.

Yes, Rosie got an extra handout because she is such a good and easy cow to keep. She and her baby are back out in the meadow and I noticed baby Rosebud pestering her brothers and sisters, just like all babies do. Oh, my, the miracle of birth never ceases to amaze me, obviously. Happy spring!

Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.