Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Closing Time

Two a.m. has suddenly taken on a new meaning for me.  What, several years ago, used to be "last call" is now "wake-up call."  When calving season arrives in mid-March of every year, Danish Cowboy and I start to loathe our alarm clocks.  In previous years, I was limited to the occasional 10:00 check before bedtime and the 6:00 check upon waking.  Especially with two year old first-calf heifers, we need to be vigilant to ensure that the cows do not have any problems with calving.  However, I consider myself to have received a promotion this year (although most in this country would hardly consider the assignment of an occasional 2:00 a.m. shift a positive trend in ranch duties).

Generally, everything goes according to plan when a cow goes in to labor.  However, you never know when a calf will try to be born backwards, when a front leg might be bent back and prevent passage of the shoulders through the birth canal, when an animal tires too much to continue pushing and needs some phsyical help, or when the amniotic sac fails to break and could potentially suffocate the calf if the mama cow is not aggressive enough in licking off the newborn.  So, not only do you sometimes awake at 2:00 to check, you might have to stay up to wait and see if a cow that has just gone in to labor is successful in her efforts or requires some assistance. 

The nights can get long.  Sometimes the sun rises and you start the day out dreaming about how early you can get to bed that evening.  It's just the way life goes and I wouldn't think of changing it.

This season was even more challenging than most because winter chose to arrive on the day that spring was scheduled to start.  We had bitterly cold nights and snow storms.  Muddy conditions and snow all at once.  Challenging as it was, I still find calving season incredibly rewarding.

I have seen over the years literally thousands of calves who have entered this world.  And each one, each one, amazes me.  That an animal can be born in the dead of night to a cold world, arise within 15 minutes, walk, and instinctively know where to find that first warm drink of colostrum is absolutely fascinating.  "How do they know?", I say to Danish Cowboy.  "How?"

Not only is it speccial to see life arrive in those quiet hours of the very early morning, but you are often rewarded with other experiences that are a feast for the senses...a reward for awaking and dressing yourself in many layers of clothing and finding some sanity in your sleep-deprived mind.  This calving season, I was given a fox or two to observe, the herds of skunks that roam the calving pasture in search of tasty placenta, and two of my greatest pleasures to enjoy from the natural world:  a Great Horned Owl perched on a fence post at my eye level, his head swiveling in all directions, and two shooting stars on those crisp clear prairie evenings. 

Calving season is exhaustion and wonder all rolled in to one.      

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