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A Long Over Due Nap

Under The Wire Column

It’s insomnia time on the Hodgson Ranch and many others, too. Sleep is long forgotten, taken out of our daily routines. What do we do with all this “spare time”. You may ask? Simple answer. We calve cows. If that sounds like a simple task, here are a few facts. A cow has a roughly nine month gestation period. During those 270 days, the tiny embryo is growing and mama cow is planning how to give birth at the most inconvenient time. Her goal is to schedule the big day as close as possible to midnight on the coldest day of the year. If a blizzard can be thrown in, so much the better, in her opinion. In fact any normal human function such as regular meals, relaxation and course sleep, should be disrupted if at all possible.

It should be noted that temperature, storms, and such are honestly not controlled by bovines. It just seems that way to those of us pulling on the carharts sixteen times a day to “go check the cows”. Other influences on human existence are, however, available options for Mrs. Cow.

Most cows are born with an innate desire to be a good mother. They will choose a birth location protected from weather, predators and other cows. As soon as the calf emerges, she is immediately up, drying off the new arrival with vigorous licking which also stimulates blood flow and the desire to stand up. Once that step is accomplished new baby is directed to his first meal of warm milk. All these acts showcase her calm, caring, mannerisms. That is, until Mr. Rancher who has missed six meals the past week, slept about four hours during that same period and has slipped on the ice about twelve times checking on her, shows up to make sure all is well. As soon as Mama cow sees the well meaning rancher, all polite, gentle, appreciative manners fly out her brain. She is converted into a twelve hundred pound, four legged killing machine.

Gone are memories of her guardian breaking a few bales of straw for her to lay on for the big event, a little extra hay thrown her way as the big day approached, of any other kindness this sleep deprived, two legged, now a threat, human, approaches. Her one goal in life suddenly becomes seeing to it that today is to be his final day on Earth.

The technical term for her instinct, and it is just that, an instinct, is “mothering ability”. Sounds very innocent. We ranchers actually select cows who exhibit the characteristic. A guarantee of a live calf is the end product. There is, however, no guarantee Mr. Rancher will live. Knowing this we all give these new mothers lots of leeway. She and I both want a healthy, happy newborn, thus she is given all the room needed to do her job. In the mean time, I’m going to try and take a long overdue nap!

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