Winter calving season is underway at 2s Smith Cattle Company

Monday, February 12, 2018
A calf – born in January – nurses off of its mother. Managing partner of 2s Smith Cattle Company, Aaron Smith said without human interactions, a winter baby's best chance for survival is to have a mother with a lot of milk and good maternal instincts. 
Whitney Barnes/Democrat-News

Imagine being an animal standing in a snow covered field, with 40 mph winds gusting in your face. Now imagine you are that animal getting ready to give birth to your first baby. 

That is exactly what it's like to be a first calf heifer during winter calving season.

While winter calving can be difficult and risky, it can also provide some of the most beautiful moments for both the heifer and its owner. 

For 2s Smith Cattle Company, winter calving begins shortly after Christmas, and runs into spring season. 

Managing partner of 2s Smith Cattle Company, Aaron Smith said winter calving is an important part of the ranching process. 

"There are two primary reasons for winter calving," he said. "To have bigger calves to see at the desired time, and also we like to calve our heifers early, prior to our cows, so everything isn't happening at once.” 

Smith said the process of winter calving is much the same as any other time of the year, the only difference being weather obstacles.    

"When it's time for baby to come, it's time," Smith said. "No matter what the day or night brings – snow, rain, ice, mud, blustery winds or fridges temperatures." 

He said they are fortunate enough to have a nice barn set up for calving during the winter months. 

"It's equipped with individual calving stalls, larger pens with water, a working chute, hot box for frozen babies and an office with hot water and all of the medical equipment to do just about anything that pertains to calving," Smith noted. 

A newborn calf – born in February – lies in a stall outside the calving barn with its mother, soaking up the sun.
Whitney Barnes/Democrat-News

He said most calves born during winter calving season are born indoors or are taken indoors shortly after birth. Once the calf has nursed and is traveling well, the calves are placed outdoors, and new ones are brought in. Without human interactions, a winter baby's best chance for survival is to have a mother with a lot of milk and good maternal instincts. 

During the month and a half of winter calving, Smith said illness is just a part of the process.

"We treat it with antibiotics, and a little extra TLC," he added. "Maybe some extra feed or time indoors." 

Smith said their priority is to prevent sickness as much as possible by sanitizing water tanks and keeping everything as clean and germ free as possible.

While winter calving may have its challenges, it’s life changing for heifers, as they will give birth to their first offspring. It's also the period a heifer transitions from heifer to cow. 

For a rancher though, winter calving is an opportunity to witness miracles every day. 

"Winter calves just don't give up," Smith said. "One was found frozen in a tube under the road. The miniature twin whose mama preferred her bigger sibling, or the two-week premature baby that are now running with the pack. It's those miracles that make it all worthwhile." 

Smith, 40, whose father influenced his ranching background, said that he's been ranching as far back as he can remember. 

"It's a lifelong roller coaster full of new adventures daily," he said. “Everyone in an agricultural family – young or old – helps out, whether it be bottle feeding a frozen newborn, preparing hot meals late at night or the midnight watch during a snow storm." 

He said one of his favorite things about winter calving is the camaraderie with family and friends working together toward a primary goal.

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  • Caption to above figure: PLEASE!! the calf is LYING, not LAYING.

    -- Posted by adenoma on Mon, Feb 12, 2018, at 1:32 PM
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