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Farm Byline: May 2021

Write it in the book

by Al Gustin


It’s still referred to as spring calving, as opposed to fall calving. But these days, spring calving isn’t the same as it once was. Some producers calve in January and February. Some have pushed calving back to May or even June.

Calving is weather-sensitive. For newborn calves, warm and dry is a lot better than cold and wet. This spring’s calving season, except for the very cold weather the second week of February, has been unusually pleasant. Some years, it’s not so easy.

I recall an especially difficult calving season a number of years ago. There had been an abundance of snow and the weather had turned warm enough to make conditions very sloppy. My brother, Dennis, was on a business trip, and we were in the midst of another “snow event.” Neighbor Steve came over to help.

We spent the day feeding, bedding and dragging newborn calves into a barn that soon became overcrowded. It was still snowing and blowing that evening as we got everything settled, checked the closeup cows again and then went to see how the calves in the calf shelters were doing.

I noticed not far from a calf shelter was one of my cows, nursing another cow’s calf. Not far away was the other cow, nursing my cow’s calf. They had gotten cross-mothered. I couldn’t tell for how long, but neither of the cows seemed unhappy with the arrangement. Now what? Obviously, it seemed, we were going to have to get those crossed-up pairs into the barn and pen each of the cows, separately, with her own calf.

But the barn was already full and there would be more calves born during the night. I was already exhausted. I found Steve and showed him the cross-mothered pairs. He looked at the pairs, nursing, and said, “Write it in the book.” We did. And those cows raised each other’s calf until weaning.

That’s the way it is in life. Sometimes things get mixed up. Sometimes we can straighten things out. But sometimes, you just have to write it in the book.

Al Gustin is a retired farm broadcaster, active rancher and a member of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative.