A Cowboy’s Faith: Cows need motherly impulse – Osage County Online | Osage County News

A Cowboy’s Faith: Cows need motherly impulse

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“That heifer has no maternal instinct, no common sense whatsoever.”

The herdsman made similar comments numerous times during recent calving situations.

There’s ample timber protection in the draws completely out of the subzero storms. Yet when a cow starts birthing on a barren hill in a strong north wind it’s completely illogical. Chances of calf survival are immediately sharply reduced in such severe conditions. Problems increase more when a heifer drops her calf and immediately turns away eating hay.

A newborn coming out of momma’s warm inside to the frigid cold pasture must be cared for or it’ll freeze. Even calves with highly maternal mothers providing the utmost attention had frozen ears, tails and feet last week.

Certain cattle bloodlines are promoted for their maternal instincts. Naturally the cows are supposed to know how and want to care for their babies in the best ways possible. Still when the time comes, Mother Nature plays havoc on brainpower of certain young bovine females. Giving birth is an entirely new experience they’ve never had before and first timers often just don’t know what to do.

Continuing days of very cold temperatures, limited access to open water and consuming enough warming feedstuff add to the predicament. In such bad weather, a cow with mothering ability finds a warm place as possible to calve with protection from the elements.

Upon giving birth hopefully without problems, the cow must do her best to warm the newborn. That’s nuzzling, licking, encouraging the baby to stand and get warm colostrum in the first milk mother has to offer. With such a start, chances of calve survival are greatly enhanced.

First calf heifers do require more attention than older cows. Limited housing conditions sometimes prevent giving adequate care, but close inspection of those near birthing is essential. When the time comes, it’s best to get a heifer inside and let her advance at her own pace.

However, there’s a fine line to know when to let nature work or for man to step in and help. Anything imaginable and more can happen at birthing time and assistance can be from none to very complex. Being a cow-calf manager isn’t always a romantic life.

Reminded of Deuteronomy 7:14: “He’ll bless the calves from your herds and get rid of their sickness and evil afflictions.”

030615-franksmug2Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a radio marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.

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