As ranchers in Colorado, we know what season it is not by the temperature (since we have snow in three out of four of the seasons) but by what is going on around the ranch and by what work needs to be done. In fall, we cut hay and get ready for winter. In winter, we feed animals, plow snow, and do all we can to enjoy the snow. In summer, we clean the ranch, feed guests, and saddle horses.
In spring, we put on our mud boots to trudge through thigh-deep mud, start getting the ranch ready for summer, and we also start calving. We welcome around 30 calves each spring to the ranch. That is small change as far as cattle ranching goes; many ranches around here have well over 200 calves each spring. But, just like cooking is still work whether you are feeding 5 or 50, calving is still a chore with 30 or 300. We check the cows at least twice a day, usually more. Typically, our cows don’t need any help in labor. We let them deliver in peace unless they look like they need help. When we have new calves, we tag them and observe them to make sure they are standing and nursing.
The moms are usually amazing mothers. Instinctually, they are protective and caring.
At times, you wonder how much the moms coordinate and communicate with each other. Sometimes all the calves will be nursing at the same time like someone hollered “lunch time!” or a group of calves will be soaking up the sun while two of the mom’s keep watch, like the moms are taking turns leaving the kids so they can shop for hay.
We have 12 calves “on the ground” (that is rancher-talk for born and healthy) and about 15 yet to be born. Once they all arrive, one of our first summer rituals is branding the calves. Once we’ve branded, we know it is time for longer, warmer days again.