Who’s Running the Show?

Calving season is a challenging time of year for my husband and me to keep up with our kids’ involvement in school, church, and club activities. Obviously, the ones who are running the show around here are the cows we spend most of our time chasing after during calving.

Until spring arrives at our place, which is around June 21st, our cows run our lives through most of calving season. They have us going in all directions around the clock making sure that calves born in cold temperatures and at night survive.

We, or rather I, constantly run ahead to open or close a gate, get a pickup warmed up for a chilled calf, the calf puller, or reinforcements (a four-wheeler or horse usually) to help get a resistant cow to the barn. Not an easy task while wearing my clown shoes, which my husband insists are called overshoes.

It’s hard to keep up even when I’m not tripping on frozen cow pies in my clown shoes. Cows have us on the run constantly. They (especially the young cows) like making us run after them up hills, through mud bogs, away from the fences, in all the wrong directions, or past the open gate we want them to go through.

When a cold night is anticipated, we try to get cows that are likely to calve during the night in the barn, but they aren’t easily convinced that we know what we’re doing or what’s best for them. This is oftentimes because we’re not sure if we know what we’re doing or we can’t decide which cows or heifers look the closest to calving that should go in the barn.

If cows wore clothes, ours would want to wear the pants since they think they’re running the show. Sometimes they’ve got us looking like fools—with pants on—chasing them all over the calving pasture, as we try to maintain control of the situation. Trailing a cow toward the barn is not like strolling through a field of buttercups. Many get a need for speed right when we narrow up the gap behind them, making getting them in a challenge. One of their favorite ways to prove to us that they’re in charge is to try and outrun us.

We know our cows aren’t at the right age to appreciate what we do for them, nor will they ever be, but as the responsible caretakers, my husband and I feel compelled to get expectant mother cows where they need to go. For some cows, it’s a power struggle over who gets to decide where they should have their calf. Our cows lack cooperation skills and are often convinced they know everything about calving conditions even though we’ve seen what happens when we let them calve wherever they want.

Our cows have us running after them so much that we’ve allowed ourselves to become doormats to them. My husband and I come to the house wet and covered with mud, manure and animal bodily secretions after spending time behind a cow or in weather that can’t decide whether to stay wintery or go springy.

I enjoy the change in weather when temperatures aren’t such a threat to new, wet calves. We can ditch the doormat and bring out the welcome mat.

Column originally published the week of March 7-13, 2010

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