"We weren't supposed to start calving for 2 more weeks, but you always expect that things might start a little early. It was a cold, sleety and WINDY (out of the north) evening and it was just starting to get dark. I was coming home from my husband’s surgery that would keep him out of commission for several months. ….On the ranch work schedule anyway. Well, I thought you had better get evening chores done ASAP, but something told me to get out and take a look through those cows. After all, it was close to calving. I hopped on the 4-wheeler and thought I would take a nice gander through the cows and discover nothing going on. Things were well for the perimeter of the pasture, but I knew that cows in weather like this like to have their calves in ditches and groves of trees away from other cattle and out of the wind as much as possible. So I headed to a little ravine that would be protected from the north blustery wind. UH OH. There was a cow standing by herself with a calf in the ditch. No problem…as I got closer I could see that everyone looked fine, up and going. As I got closer there were two calves up and going. HUMMMM I wonder who wandered off and left her calf with number 99. I looked closer. Both calves were nursing 99, that is unusual, unless...Twins!!! We don’t usually have twins so I was a little excited and a lot apprehensive about how I would get these two little ones back to the barn with their mom and shut up together so she would mother both of them. As I crept closer so as not to make the Mama try and move her family away from me, I saw another little dark form. By now it was really dark and I was sure that it was a calf, but not positive. I crept closer, it was a calf and it was lying between 99’s feet. Two calves nursing, one in close, no other cows around. TRIPLETS? No couldn't be. Must be. As I got too close for the cow’s comfort, she tried to herd her little group away from me. It didn't work, too many to herd, but she knew they were all hers.
Now I knew that I had to get them to the barn, a whole pasture away. If I didn't do this right, the mother might not claim any of her calves. I knew it was imperative that I get them all to the barn together and driving a new baby calf and a Mama is like pushing string up hill. I called the neighbor. He said he would be right over. While waiting I got a calf sled that we use in the snow, and hooked it on the ATV. I got three little twine ropes. My plan was to load all three calves into the sled and pull them to the barn. I needed the twine to tie their little legs together so they wouldn't struggle out of the sled.
Where was that neighbor? What was taking him so long? I hoped that the cow would follow the sled with the calves to the barn. If she didn't we would have a horrible time getting her to the barn if we took the calves and she didn't follow. She would keep trying to return to where she had the calves. FINALLY the neighbor arrived. We got back to the cow and her babies. No other cows around or even interested. These calves were a good size for sharing such a small space inside Mama. We tied the little feet like a tie-down roper would tie a calf. Loaded them into the sled and prayed that the mom would follow. Off we started in the dark. It was a rough ride, as it was hard to avoid obstacles, but as we started that cow had her nose in the back of that sled and that is where she kept it, following as closely as she could, mooing and cooing to her girls…all heifers! We made it to the barn, unloaded our precious cargo and had to jump out of the way as the cow came in! Three perfect calves, and a WONDERFUL mother who knew she had more than one off-spring and was tending to them beautifully. We knew that she would need to have her milk supplemented. There is no way that she could raise all 3 by herself. She just would not produce enough milk for 3 hungry, growing calves, but for the time being she would take care of them and do a great job.
Never fails, you get these little Blessings when you live on a ranch or farm, it seems like especially when the wife is in charge and the husband is gone.
We ended up grafting 2 of the calves onto cows that had lost their calves for one reason or another and left the smallest calf with her mom. All are thriving and growing… a happy ending. If I hadn't discovered them on that cold night, probably the mother would have lost at least one of the calves, probably two. Life on a ranch is one adventure after another. I feel so lucky to be a part of this life."
And, cattle ranching is lucky to have these two great friends of ours who are passionate about "this life!"