Every operation has its own calving process and the crucial chunk of ours is in the location. Locomotive is such an ideal place for our cows to calve because it only (ok, usually) gets little bits of snow. The weather is mild enough that there is still good range feed (aka grass) and warmer temperatures that we don’t have to worry about losing calves to the cold.
Being that it is out on the range, there are wide open spaces for the herd (channel your inner “Home on the Range” background music!). They can be spread out to make sure that the right momma and babies get paired up together. There are times when cows are bunched up too close that they try to claim another calf as their own. We tag them when we can, but since cows can’t read, it only helps us. I guess it doesn’t work like in the hospital when the momma and babies have matching bracelets!
Another plus of calving on the range is that it also helps to prevent sickness from spreading through all the calves. When the calves are so spread out, they have less contact with each other. When they have less contact, the germs don’t move from calf to calf so much. Just think of a kindergarten class of kids that are always wiping their runny noses on their neighbor. This is what we are avoiding! Young calves have young immune systems. And although they are building their immunity, especially through momma cow’s milk, we want to lesson their exposure as best we can.
Its a more of a hands off approach. When I was very first involved in the process I was sure that we weren’t doing enough and we were doomed to fail… But I was so wrong! We have incredible calving percentages every year. These are experienced momma’s that, with the right location, have babies without any problems. And then once the calves hit the ground, they just get growing!
Don’t get me wrong, we don’t put ‘hem out on the range and forget about them. We (read The Rancher and Rancher Sr.) ride through them nearly every day on the off-chance that there is something going hay-wire. But we certainly don’t wear ourselves out as if we calved all 600+ at home!