Since I arrived at Ranchlands, there has been consistent talk floating around about the impending arrival of calves. The season was just around the corner. On every morning check, my excitement was growing as much as the cows’ bellies.
March 10th brought our first calf at the McAuliffe. She was a little early, arriving about a week before the official start to calving season. Phoebe and I were out checking fence when, cresting a hill, we saw something small: a little brown lump lying between two cows, one still expecting and one a new mother. The lump jerked its head up at the strange, new sound of our truck engine. Phoebe hit the brake, and in silence, we watched the little brown lump totter to its feet, taking the shape of a fresh, wet calf, bouncing alongside her mother and disappearing beyond the horizon. For the next few days, this first calf stayed at the center of our attention as none of the other cows followed suit. And then, the following week, came the discovery of baby plateau.
At the time of our evening rides through the herd, all the fresh calves of the past few days could be found congregated on the top of a small hill. Some jumping around, others napping, and one or two that had yet to stand up and discover their ability to walk. Is there anything better to accompany warm weather and longer days than a plateau of playful calves? In my opinion, no, there probably isn’t much better.
Our first calf was no longer alone, and the season was proving to be in full swing. For the first week or so, it was easy to remember and distinguish the different pairs, but by now the numbers are growing too quickly. Each day I move through the shrinking number of expecting cows and the growing number who are already nursing their calves. Some newborns stand side by side with their moms, while others’ heads just poke out of their nests beneath shady shrubs. One cow babysits multiple calves while the other mothers take a break to graze uninterrupted for awhile.
In my three months with Ranchlands so far, I’ve seen the seasons transition from pregnancy checks to calving checks and watched our herd begin to double in size. Each cow gains its own miniature follower. A whole new meaning has developed behind the regrowth and new life that spring brings along with it. Even with the few days of snow we’ve had since March 10th, the calves jump around as a reminder of where we are in the year.
By ranch intern Morgan Atkinson