Preparing for calving

I had been tossing around the idea of doing a post like this for a while now, but never actually wrote it out. But after a dear friend sent someone my direction today for this type of information, I decided that I better get to typing while the juices were flowing.

(Sorry if there are many typos…my desktop is in the shop, and my new keyboard for my new iPad is a tad tough to get used to!)

Anyway, I was asked what kind of things are needed to get ready for calving season, from a new farmwife, getting ready to embark on her first calving season. And since we are just about a month away from calving on our own farm, I thought this was a timely topic. So here’s my calving top 10 list (and please remember, this is a great list for my farm…each operation has their own way of doing things, but this is what works for us):

1) Figure out your schedule ahead of time. Write down appointments, meetings, etc. Make sure that you are both on the same page. That way, if you’re taking night checks (like I do), you can start getting ready for it by going to bed a little earlier. No need to go into calving season already tired and worn out. That’ll come soon enough!

2) Have a working (and effective) alarm clock! The first few nights of getting up every two hours isn’t a problem for me…but the last few weeks seem to be pretty rough. If my alarm clock isn’t obnoxious, I’ll sleep right through it, which can be bad news for a new calf born in subzero temps!

3) Get a good set of walkie-talkies. Charge them. Use them. In our area, cell phones don’t always have the best of signals, especially in the barn. Walkie-talkies can be a God-send. But only if they’re working! 😉 (It also helps if the other party has theirs on them…and on. Right dear?)

4) Have the vet’s number in your phone. And posted near the door. And have the phone readily available…and charged. Hmm…I seem to be speaking from experience, eh? Anyway, there’s nothing worse than searching for the vet’s number at a ridiculous hour…and then realizing you don’t have a phone nearby anyway!

5) Be prepared. Have your supplies on-hand ahead of time, and readily accessible. That includes: calving sleeves, lube, pulling chain, rope, warming box, milk replacer, colostrum, ear tags, ear tag marker, calving record book, baseball bat and whatever else your vet may suggest or request.


We have one of these for every calving season, since 1988.



6) Be prepared for the weather. In our area, we generally have very cold temps and snow. Although this year, we’re going into 2012 with no snow on the ground and above average temperatures! Yay! My calving wardrobe includes a set of Carhartt coveralls (purple, in fact), a pair of Muck boots and a good set of gloves, various hats and a scarf. A good pair of coveralls makes bundling up at 2 a.m. a little less painful, and a good pair of boots make sure my feet stay dry and toasty. Both are very important to me!

7) Have some meals ready ahead of time. Freeze lasagna, have some pizzas on stand-by, whatever is appealing to you. Soups, chili, snacks…and hide some, so when you think you’re out, you have an emergency stash. Unless your husband takes that as some kind of personal challenge to find your hidden treasures, then you’ll go into your stash and come up with empty wrappers. Kids are good for that, too.

8) Don’t forget to pay bills. Set them up on auto-pay, set your cell phone to send you a reminder, whatever may be. Sometimes calving season can seem a little crazy and hectic, and sometimes the days kind of meld into one another. You’ll look at the calendar and realize that a week has gone by…and perhaps you should shower. (Just kidding!)

9) Don’t forget to take time for yourself. Yes, it’s a crazy time, but it’s amazing to watch the new calves playing, watch a heifer loving up on her first-born calf, and experience all the craziness that comes with calving. But you can’t forget to spend a moment or two snuggled on the couch, watching the news before you both fall asleep; enjoy a warm meal together, even if it’s something as simple as warmed-up pizza; and take a moment whenever you can, to thank God for all you’ve been given. I’m going to double up on that last one this year…I couldn’t thank Him enough for the gifts of 2011.

Our cows are normally red...not snow covered!


10) Don’t forget to pack your patience. It’ll be tested. When everyone is tired, no one is getting a good nights sleep and tempers are running hot, even the silliest of missteps can set off some fireworks. But just remember, this too shall pass. And before you know it, life will be back to “normal.” Whatever “normal” is.

6 thoughts on “Preparing for calving

  1. Maybe this is sheep-farmer ignorance, but what does a baseball bat help with? Wolves? These are helpful tips for any baby-birthing time!

  2. I hear ‘ya! Goat kidding is starting here. Just as the temps dip into the 20’s for the first time all winter. We use a baby monitor in the kidding barn so we don’t have to get up and check things every couple hours. Of course, I do have some quiet kidders slip by unnoticed but, so far, they have done OK on their own.
    Stevie @

  3. Great Tips Val
    I need to do better at making meals ahead of time and like the idea of auto paying bills.
    After enduring last years winter in SD we are in the process of building a calving barn, who knew this act would give us the great winter weather we are having !
    I will be documenting the barn progress in my blog and plan to do some calving season posts also. Please drop by
    Hope calving season goes well for our family !

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