We have officially started calving!! Number 25 was the first to calve today, having a little Low line heifer calf. Bring on the next few months of being super busy, exhausted, covered in mud and cow poo, being soaked through and freezing to being too hot and uncomfortable running around in full waterproof gear!
Spring calving is a super hectic time of year for dairy farmers. The farm I work on has around 220 cows, meaning 220 calves to rear. Its hard work, but also super rewarding. The heifers, whose first year it is in the herd, are due to have Low line calves which will be reared and sold as weaner calves. Lowline bulls tend to have a shorter gestation period, hence 25 calving a bit early, and they are generally smaller and easier to calve. The herd was mated artificially with specifically selected bulls back in October/November to bring out the best traits in the cows. From these calves we will rear the best heifers for our replacement herd and the rest are known as bobby calves.
Like any pregnancy, there can be complications. Cows are closely monitored when they are due to calve and are checked on regularly night and day. It can be pretty tough mentally and physically, you have the whole of the herd to worry about, so there isn’t time to get too hung up on the little things. Often there can be unexpected situations and its helpful to practise being present and not freaking out, but using your energy to resolve it.
Rearing calves is primarily my job. I make sure they get all the best colostrum milk from their mothers, especially important if their mother doesn’t feed them. They then get taught how to drink from the feeder, and how to share with others. When they are a bit older they are introduced to grains and more grassy type foods. I make sure they have a warm, dry and clean space to sleep in and also carefully monitor them for signs of illness and keep records of vaccinations. The best feeling in the world is when you have a pen full of calves that all finally drink from the feeder together for the first time. It always feels like a massive victory.
Its super hard managing my training through calving season, as I am usually pretty run down from work with early mornings, late nights, lots of activity and not enough food. I’m really hoping to use some Tailwind nutrition for those bigger days on the farm when we cant always stop for food, but regularly sipping some complete energy drink would work wonders! Snacks like peanut butter oat cookies or banana muffins are life savers too, anything with carbs to keep you going.
My training and racing experience helps to keep me fit and healthy with the increased work load. I now know how to best fuel my body to stay energetic and alert, as well as optimising my recovery. I can also implement my mindfulness practise to remain calm and present when things don’t go to plan. Its a long 3 months and things don’t really settle down until after Christmas time, when the calves are out on pasture and don’t need as much daily attention.
I love these amazing animals and being able to develop a bond with them is such a privilege. Watching them grow from calves to cows and become part of the herd is so special. Above is 46, one of many pet cows.