My husband is nesting. Yes, you read that right.
Turns out, that instinctive, sometimes uncontrollable, urge to organize, clean, arrange and rearrange in preparation for the impending arrival of a newborn is not limited to expectant mothers. In fact, he goes through a nesting phase, or something like it, this time every year regardless of my state of pregnancy or lack thereof. It just so happens that his nesting is actually in preparation for calving season and the influx of newborn calves, not the fast approaching arrival of our newborn baby.
This year, the annual nesting phase is slightly different than most years for a couple of reasons. I am doing some uncontrollable, expectant mother nesting of my own for one thing, and we (and by “we,” I mean Tom) are preparing to calve a herd of first-calf heifers. So, not only is he as focused as an expectant mother in full-on nesting mode, he is also seeking counsel and bouncing ideas around with his peers, just as an expectant mother often does.
The amount of time and thought that goes into preparation for calving season depends heavily on the age, and experience, of the herd. First-calf heifers are the youngest, most inexperienced cows on the ranch. As the name implies, a first-calf heifer is a young female expecting her first calf. And like many other first time mothers, first-calf heifers often require more advice and guidance than older, more experienced mothers when it comes to giving birth to, and rearing, their offspring. Thus, the need for nesting nearly two months in advance of the start of calving season.
|This mature cow did not require assistance of any kind when
she delivered her calf within the protection of the hills
during the 2014 May snow storm.
Tom’s nesting checklist for calving first-calf heifers looks something like this:
- Draft the grazing plan. In addition to meeting all of the requirements of a grazing plan designed for a mature cow herd, a grazing plan for first-calf heifers must include pastures with foolproof (and I do mean foolproof) protection from the elements should bad weather strike. If the protection in a pasture isn’t readily available, and beyond self-explanatory, a first-calf heifer is less likely to seek it out than a mature cow. Due to inexperience, she may even give birth to, or leave, her calf in an area exposed to dangerous weather conditions.
- Clean, repair, and position the portable calving barn. We actually have two calving barns. Along with the portable barn, we also have a permanent barn here at the house. In years when we are only calving mature cows, neither barn sees much action. As a result, the portable barn doesn’t get much attention during the nesting phase. This year, on the other hand, we (and again, by “we,” I mean Tom) are preparing both barns. For a mature cow, bonding with her calf is old hat and she rarely requires a trip to the barn, but first-calf heifers can be naive and/or in denial about having their first calf. This often necessitates time spent in the comfort of the barn in a cozy stall where the distractions are few and the heifer can focus solely on bonding with her newborn calf.
- Pack the calving box. The calving box contains OB gloves, betadine solution, and the instruments necessary for assisting a cow with the delivery and care of her newborn calf, should the need arise. On account of her inexperience in giving birth, a first-calf heifer is more likely to require the services of the calving box than her mature cow counterpart, making it vitally important to have a well stocked calving box.
As funny as it sounds to say, “my husband is nesting,” his annual nesting phase is of utmost importance, especially this year. Good preparation sets us up for a successful, positive calving season. Having a positive calving experience this year will not only set the stage for the future of the calves born to the first-calf heifers, but will also help the young mothers grow into confident, mature cows.