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Kambich: Calving season prep comes with a load of excitement


Ahhhh, my favorite time of year is upon us: calving season! OK, maybe it’s not here *right* now, but we’re getting really close. I’ve spent the past couple of days getting cows moved around in preparation for calving. We still have a lot to do to get ready, but one day in particular was very interesting, because it was full of some not-so-OSHA-approved activities.

The day started at 4:30 in the morning. I must say, it’s really hard to get out of bed sometimes, but it is beyond worth it to beat the heat. We left the house at around 5 a.m and made our way up the road to the Big Hole. We pulled the old cows out of our Tucker Creek pasture, moved them around Pine Hill, and out to the forest. It was a long trek, but it was better than last year, because we got up at the butt crack of dawn.

My dad is a funny feller. When we pulled in, the young fall calvers were up by the house. Dad told us, “I’m going to push these girls to the other end. I do not want them within earshot of those old hides.” Thankfully, those girls had no problem running to the other end of the field, so my brother Carl and I went up to Tucker Creek to get the “old hides” by the gate. We rolled up there, and there were around 30 head standing by the gate ready to leave. Now, I don’t like Tucker Creek because there isn’t an actual road to the bottom of it, and the entire pasture is all sagebrush. Fast-forward 15 minutes and we headed up the hill and out of Tucker Creek. For the most part, it went really well. They were old cows, they knew where they were going. We got them to the First Bar, and then they decided to get a little saucey.

My dad went to open up two gates for us to go through while the dog followed him, per usual. Well, I looked over, and guess who had their 4-wheeler buried in a ditch? Carl. He had it buried up to the exhaust pipe, so all I could really see was smoke. Well, it was actually steam, but I didn’t know that at first and thought the 4-wheeler was on fire. After I realized it was actually steam, I watched him for a couple minutes to see if he could get out. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen so I drove over to help … and got stuck in the same ditch that he did.

I was able to get myself out, courtesy of my smarts and muscles, but not before I got my boots extremely wet. Oh, by the way, this whole fiasco happened at 7 in the morning, in the Big Hole, in cold water. I got over to Carl and assessed the situation. I only saw one way fit to get him out of the ditch. I got behind the 4-wheeler (in the cold water) and pushed. Yup, I was covered in mud and when Carl shot out of the ditch, I fell into the water. I was absolutely soaked up to my waist. All while this was happening, the cows stopped and were eating the grass. Carl and I were zipping back and forth, and would you believe what happened? Carl got stuck in the SAME DITCH, just in a different spot. He hit it at an angle, so he was trying to get out of the ditch while two of his tires were firmly stuck. Thank the Lord, he got it out. I really wasn’t in the mood for another ice bath.

We got the girls down and around Pine Hill and were on the last leg of our journey. They were pretty much done, but we had to get them up the hill and down to the water on the other side of the field. The hill wasn’t very steep, but of course there was sagebrush. I was just minding my own business and looked over at Carl, and lo and behold, his 4-wheeler was on its side. Apparently, he turned, hit a sagebrush that was bigger than it looked, and landed in a hole next to it. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a very good way to flip a 4-wheeler.

If you thought my story was over, think again. I always say working with one-ton animals with brains is really interesting. Now, add in the component of that one-ton animal being a milk cow. Somehow, our milk cow, Candy, managed to undo the top wire on the gate separating the spring calvers from the pasture where the old fall calvers were. I looked down at the pasture and thought, “That doesn’t look right.” Once I finally figured out was happening, I zipped down there, with Carl hot on my heels, to kick them out before the fall calvers realized they could get out. That would’ve led to a mess and a very long day spent in the corral separating them.

Let me tell you a little something about spring calvers. You know parents have their favorite child that does no wrong, and then have another child who causes trouble and is a nuisance? Well, spring calvers fall into the latter category. They’re born into the world when the grass is starting to turn green and lush, and their feed is abundant. They’re spoiled little brats that aren’t happy with anything. They live by the saying of, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” On the other hand, fall calvers are born into the world towards the end of the fresh green grass and therefore will eat anything. They’re much less picky and lower maintenance. As I said, we all have a favorite child (guess which mine is).

Of course, my day wasn’t done there, but I’ll save that for another post. Thanks for reading! Now go eat a hamburger.


Hanna Kambich is a sophomore majoring in Agricultural Business at Montana State University. She spends most of her time working on the family ranch and writes about the day-to-day activities in her blog “The Ranch Hand’s Life.”

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