A Story Of Cattle And Cold Weather

It’s bitterly cold across much of the Upper Midwest. And so I relate this story:

Years ago, when I was a high school student, I helped to check our cattle during calving. One bitterly cold night — the thermometer read 19 below and the wind chill made it much colder — I went out at 2 a.m. to check.

Nothing was happening with the cows inside the barn. So I checked the ones outside. (There wasn’t enough space to have them all inside) Trudging through the cold was unpleasant, to say the least, but it was the right thing to do.

At first I saw nothing noteworthy. Then I spotted a cow, well away from the others, who just given birth and was licking her calf, a strapping bull calf. Both mother and son looked fine, but leaving a newborn calf outside in such cold conditions hardly seemed prudent.

So I tried picking him up and carrying him the 150 yards or so to the barn. No go. He was pretty heavy. And at the risk of being too graphic, he was slippery from the combination of afterbirth and his mother’s saliva. It didn’t help that his mother, maternal instincts on high, kept head-butting me.

So I trudged back to the barn, picked up a small sled and returned to the calf. I put him on the sled and dragged him to the barn, his mother head-butting me all the way. I got the two of them inside and closed the door.

I was sore, tired and very cold. But the calf was safe, and that’s what mattered.

Calving season hasn’t started yet, but area ranchers are battling cold weather to keep their animals healthy and safe.

Please, don’t send me snippy emails saying that ranchers chose their occupation, knowing full well that bitterly cold weather was part of the job description, and consequently don’t warrant any sympathy.

Well, yes, obviously they knew what they were getting into. And, no, they don’t warrant — and don’t expect — any special sympathy.

My point is this: It’s really cold, and ranchers are doing their best (a very good best) to care for their animals.