Calving Season

February 7, 2017

Written by

So, on this blog I have decided to do "Memoir Mondays"- sort of like "Flashback Fridays". I will be giving glimpses into the past.  Most times, I will be recounting stories my grandpa has told about his life when he was younger on the McCafferty Ranch.  


Today, I will be recounting a memoir from my younger childhood days- paying homage to the season of calving that is rapidly approaching. Calving is undoubtedly the most important time of the year.  It is when our entire paycheck for the year is born.  Every life is of utmost importance, and we will go to great lengths to save each and every calf.  Some of these "lengths" are listed below:


                  1) Staying up all night, every night.....

                  2) Risking your life- Mama cows can be MEAN!!!

                  3) Freezing- for extended periods of time

                  4) Starving- there is no time to eat

                  5) Being open to strange and unusual circumstances

(Here is a comical picture of what happens when you turn your back on a mama cow. She is winding up to charge!)


I am going to elaborate on one of these "strange and unusual circumstances".  Before I start, you have to keep in mind a couple of things about ranch kids:

  • We know how babies are made very early (Cows don't breed in private).

  • We are accustomed to death and trauma at an early age 

Onto the story.


It was calving season and my uncle had an old cow that was dying, and couldn't even stand.  She hadn't calved yet, so he had a little bit of a problem.  In order to save the calf's life - he would have to cut the cow's life a few minutes short, and perform an emergency c-section- rancher style.


Now, my sister and I, and our cousins just happened to be going by as all of this was going on.  We were all probably between the ages 5-12, and our cousins were here on vacation from California.  Things were looking interesting, so, naturally we decided to stay and watch.  


First, my uncle did the poor cow in.Then, he quickly set about performing the c-section. This was the first time I had seen a c-section performed in such a manner- you can only imagine what the California cousins were thinking!!!!


Anyways, my uncle successfully got the uterus pulled out, and then skillfully extracted the calf. Next, he performed a highly skilled, life saving medical procedure we fondly call "swingin' 'em".  This is where a preferably strong, and tall, person grabs the calf by the two hind feet, and swings them around in a circle. I wish I had a picture of this, but imagine the above picture except replace the kid with a calf, and imagine it head down.  Then, replace the smiling man with a man in coveralls, and the beach with a snow-covered corral.


Believe me when I say this is life saving.  The swinging motion moves all of the amniotic fluid out of the lung (the natural birthing process normally does this.)  In abnormal circumstances such as this, it is mandatory to "swing 'em".  On occasion this procedure doesn't happen, and the calf will get pneumonia and more than likely die.  When reporting such deaths to a fellow rancher they will ask, "so did you swing 'em?" And, ashamedly, you will give some excuse as to why you could not.


Back to the story. While my uncle was "swingin' 'em", my California cousin was still fixated on the uterus laying out on the ground. All of the sudden, she reported large movements coming from the uterus.  Rushing over, my uncle yanked out another CALF! He was still breathing, and promptly got to "swingin'"! 


All in all, we ended up with two healthy calves, and four shocked little girls!












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McCafferty Ranch Beef

409  Beckstrom Road

Belt, Montana



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