If you’re a native of South Dakota, you are probably well acquainted with all four seasons. Farmers know the ins and outs of the weather better than most, but also have their own “seasons” on the farm. For many farmers and ranchers one of the busiest seasons of the year has started. Calving.
Calving at our house starts in early February. While it is fun to have adorable baby calves on the farm, it also takes a lot of work to make sure that each calf starts out their life on our farm warm and healthy. Cows that are expecting a calf are checked on every four hours day and night. Most calves arrive without much trouble, but every once in a while there is a cow that needs our assistance to have her calf.
If it’s cold like it was last week, calf checks happen every two hours. We want to make sure that if a calf is born during the cold, we are there to see that it gets licked off and is getting warm and dry. During extreme cold weather, the calf will stay in a heated warming box for the first day or two. Sometimes a calf will be born in wet freezing weather, and we know they won’t be able to warm up on their own. More than once I woke up before school to find a calf sitting in our bathtub with a space heater on it trying to get warm.
Each cow knows her calf by its smell, but we need a little more help. After the calf is born, it gets an ear tag and tattoo so we know who it belongs to. The tattoo is there to help us identify the calf even if the tag falls out, which happens to a few cattle every year. The baby calf will also get it’s first vaccination to prevent disease as it’s growing, and it gets an iodine navel dip to prevent infection. Last, the calf is weighed. A new calf can weigh anywhere from 60-100 pounds.
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Even with all this activity, farmers still have other things going on at the farm. The cows need to be fed, and machinery getting prepped for planting season. To most of us the season is still winter, but to cattle producers it’s one of the busiest and best seasons of the year. Calving season.
Listen to this week's radio segment here! SD_Farm_Families_-_Farmers_Daughter_Feb_16th.mp3