Calving Season Survival Checklist

Prior to calving season, my husband always inventories calving supplies that we need to buy or find. Having everything on hand avoids the stress of discovering in the middle of the night that we don’t have what we need.

His checklist includes mostly items like mineral supplements, veterinary, and doctoring supplies, but he tends to overlook items I consider vital, so I make sure we have the priority stuff he’s omitted. It’s important we don’t run short on coffee. It gives us the supercharged energy we need to get through chores and whatever current cow or calf dilemma we have to address in the morning.

Regardless of how much I wear gloves, calving season turns my hands into Velcro. Most fabrics will stick to my sandpapery fingers when I fold laundry, so hand cream is a must.

TP and milk are necessities we can’t live without around here. Since no one else worries about it until we’re critically low, I buy 4-5 gallons of milk to get us through a week if trips to town are limited, and buy a bale (our nickname for buying TP in bulk) of toilet paper to avoid running out.

My rechargeable flashlight lights up our lives while out night checking the corral, the barn, and under the lean-to shed for signs of new life. Not only can we can see, it puts the cows that are calving in the spotlight and we don’t have to deal with dead batteries.

Also vital are lots of old towels and rags. We put them in the barn, tack shed, pickups, and four wheelers to dry off calves, clean off mucked up pickup seats, or our hands. The clean ones make a handy hanky in a pinch.

Buying ice cream by the gallon serves multiple purposes. Not only is consuming ice cream a comfort food proven to relieve our stress and is a well-deserved reward at the end of a hard day, it replenishes depleted stores of winter fat that this time of year burns off. We get our daily serving(s) of dairy, and when the bucket’s empty it gets reused as a scoop, for mixing milk replacer in, or suffices as a portable sink for washing hands, OB chains, or any other items that need washed when water isn’t close by.

My husband uses binoculars to check cows from the house windows but they work equally well from the pickup or ATVs at distance when trying to read ear tags without disrupting a new cow-calf pair.

For us, calving requires the biggest bottle of Advil available. We rely on Advil to ward off tension headaches, coffee withdrawal headaches, and aches and pains of all kinds to help us get through tough days; although it’s virtually useless on a pain in the butt.

It behooves me to make sure my overshoes don’t leak before the ground gets muddy. My son gets irritated when he finds his overshoes on my boots and has to switch them over to his boots—something to add to next year’s list.

Being well-prepared and having an ample inventory of important calving supplies aids in a successful calving season and minimizes stress. That’s why I make sure at the top the list of supplies we need to buy is that gallon of ice cream.

column originally published the week of March 28-April 3, 2010

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