When I started out with cattle, everything I knew about them was written on a check for $11,400 that I wrote for nine cows and five calves. That was in 2005 and I guess I’ve learned a few things about bovines since then.
I wouldn’t normally plan for our cows to calve this early, and this one actually arrived a bit early — I was expecting a February calf. Many ranchers do start calving in January and I’ve seen other early calves in pastures in recent days.
I spoke with a veterinarian about this and he said they can handle extremely cold temperatures just fine so long as there’s no wind or blowing snow. The mother cow licks the calf dry and gets it to nurse warm milk quickly.
But the real question is, why do cows often seem to wait for bad weather conditions — like extreme cold or a snowstorm — to have a calf? Some say it has to do with barometer changes. That may be the case. But why? I’ve begun to wonder if there’s some evolutionary component to this. Perhaps over time cows became genetically programmed to have calves during foul weather because predators move around less in these conditions. Or perhaps there’s some other reason we can’t fathom.
In the past years we’ve had a few calves born in bad conditions — actually a wet snowstorm in March or April scares me more than dry cold in January — and they all seem to do just fine. Perhaps we humans apply too much of our own sensibilities to these situations when in fact Mother Nature has it all under control.
When I checked on the cattle at dusk this evening the new calf was running in circles around the big cows. It was a balmy 18 degrees.