On The Ranch

Oh, Mother.

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I wrote this post years ago, and honestly, it’s so much funnier now that I’m a mom. Is it okay to call yourself funny in retrospect? I hope so, because I’m doing it. No shame in my game.

The heifers have started calving, and it makes me miss our days of being knee-deep in calves for months when we worked for registered ranches (commercial ranches typically aren’t as hands-on, for a variety of reasons), but then I remember how much work that was and how exhausted we were and how much of our diets consisted of snacks and sweet tea and I think I’ll stick with my fond reminiscences. As Bert says, it’s easier to get up in the night to feed a human baby than to go check calves because at least you get to stay inside and don’t have to get out of your pajamas.

Which is where I laugh at him, because he’d always get fully dressed to go check and I’d just throw my coveralls over my jammies and call it good. Including one time when I was wearing footy pajamas which almost resulted in an embarrassing bathroom situation but don’t worry, it got, ah, taken care of.

Being around so many bovine mothers has made me realize they’re similar to human mothers in that while each one is, of course, unique, every mother can be loosely grouped into a category based on her parenting style.

The Helicopter Mother is the sort that won’t leave. Ever. You’ve seen her–that mom at the soccer game/swim meet/dance class that the ref/coach/teacher has to keep chasing off the field/pool deck/floor. She wears fanny packs and has a tote bag full of band-aids, kleenex and medical supplies a triage nurse would envy. Also a change of clothes, in case things get wild. She does Junior’s homework, plans all his extra-curriculars, and stays home whenever she hires a babysitter to supervise the babysitter supervising her child. In bovine form, this mother will hardly get out of Junior’s face long enough to let him nurse, much less let him walk somewhere. She’s mastered the art of bellering hysterically and never taking her eyes off of you or her calf while walking backwards. It’s hard to tag her calf because she won’t leave enough space between Junior’s head and her own for you to get a tag in edgewise. She’s annoying, but you deal with her because she’s a good mother, mostly–besides her child never being able to socialize properly due to her overbearing hovering.

The “You’re On Your Own” Mother is the sort who–by laziness or by design–lets her child learn for itself and just watches when it does something stupid. Every now and then, she’ll say (or moo) some instructions or advice, like “A little to the left, Ashley,” or “Watch out for that hole, Rutherford,” or “Don’t fall of the edge of the bridge, Harriet, I won’t come in to get you,” but she usually just stays involved in whatever activity she was involved in when Junior went for his adventure, which is usually eating. This mom’s alright–she’ll usually intervene before little Cletus does something really dumb.
The Satellite Mother is a mother we all know. She’s seems rather uninvolved and distant, perhaps even neglectful at times. However, her children are impeccably groomed and always have the best lunches. She attends all of their recitals, concerts and games, but in a mysterious, back-of-the-room sort of way, and lets the other mothers be front and center. Until, of course, little Timothy is unfairly tackled or little Prunella is pushed during the ballet recital, and then her presence becomes immediately obvious and the offender wonders where in the world she was but vows never to mess with her kid again. In cow form, this mother will never be near her calf, as far as you can tell, but you know they must have some sort of interaction because the calf is fat and healthy. But, she somehow knows where it is at.all.times, and will come racing at a dead run if you get anywhere near the little pipsqueak, bellering and carrying on, making you jump back with your hands up (“I swear I was just checking on him!”) and get the heck out of there.

The Overbearing Mother is similar to a Helicopter Mother, but not quite as protective and well-meaning as, well, overbearing. A Helicopter type will usually let Junior walk in the direction he chooses (as long as he can navigate around her ever-present hovering) and lets him pick his own place to nap in the straw (as long as it IS on the straw–no freezing down for this calf!), this mother does not. She chooses when Junior walks, where he walks, how fast it takes him to get there, when he sleeps, where he sleeps, which side he stands on to nurse and what sort of bull he’ll be when he grows up–and will continually make her demands known by hollering at him until her complies. She’s not opposed to moderate head-nudging to get her point across. In human form, this is the sort of mother that people give the nickname “The General” or “The Tank” or “Sir.” She makes the decisions, and by God you’d better just do it or get out of her way.

We also have our share of the Abusive and Neglectful. In these cases, we act live Bovine Social Services and place the calf up for adoption. This is where grafting comes in. Unfortunately, in some (most on a commercial ranch where the calf crop is more important than genetic potential) cases, jail or rehab is not available for such gals, especially if they are repeat offenders. Their sentence is often Arby’s via the sale barn. It may seem cruel, but if a cow is a calf-killer, or fails to successfully raise a baby at all, she is not productive and becomes a money pit, when is not a viable option for any sort of business.

The Mother Hen momma is one of my favorites. You know this mother–she’s had multiple children of her own, and nothing fazes her. She’s generally a little older, and more experienced in the trials and tribulations of raising children, but loves each and every one of them all the same. She’s seen it all! The You’re-On-Your-Owns and Satellites and neglectful mothers often leave their calves under her careful supervision, while they take some “me” time and chew their cud gazing a mountain view, or have girlchat over a meal of particularly delicious hay with their girlfriends.

The “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing But We’re Going To Make This Work Darnit” mother is often a young or first-time mother who said pish-posh to all those parenting handbooks and advice from experienced mothers–and now regrets it. Not that she’ll ever tell! She’s generally bewildered by the whole idea of motherhood and the living being bursting forth from her loins. This sort of mother usually has the best intentions, but needs a little extra coaching to help her learn the ropes.

The “Oh Another One” Mother has had so many children that she can’t keep track of them, nor does she care. Like the Mother Hen, she’s experienced and has seen it all. She, however, is not as interested in the fuzzy little bundles of joy she always seems to be carting around. She loves them, sure, but is not as affectionate as she might be. She raises ’em, weans ’em and says hello to a couple of child-free months before it all starts again. She’s often like a Satellite who’s fallen out of orbit–she always knows where her calf is, and will never truly leave him, but Junior usually has the responsibility to go find her when he’s hungry–she won’t come a-wassailin’.

 

On The Ranch

Bovines, It’s Cold Outside

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Y’all. It’s real cold. I know, it’s winter so it’s to be expected, but the first cold snap of the year is always the hardest, especially when it’s a true, honest-to-goodness-way-below-zero cold snap. Plus, we’re all tender-skinned from it being 70 in November so this one is especially shocking. This is one of those days that I don’t mind that I don’t work outside with Bert as much as I used to–zero degrees is a little bit cold for the outdoor wear that currently fits over my alarmingly large and fast-growing belly!

The girls, of course, don’t get the luxury of sitting by a woodstove wearing Christmas jammies. They do, however, have the luxury of a thick coat that fits no matter how pregnant they are! All of our cows are bred to handle cold weather, so they grow a hefty and surprisingly furry coat in the winter. If it’s very cold, they’ll all bunch up together and take turns with who has to be on the outside, just like penguins, but you’d be surprised at how cold and snowy it has to be before they do that! After all, cows live where it gets much colder than it does here.

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When it gets really cold, cows eat more to keep warm, so we feed them extra–some to eat, and some to lay on so they don’t have to lay right on the snow. We also try to feed them really nice hay when it’s cold, too. Not all the hay will get put up perfectly, some might get rained on or put up a little wet because we can’t control the weather in the summer. It’s still totally fine for them to eat, and they gobble it right up, but we like to spoil them a just a little bit with some really tasty, green stuff. Here the girls are snarfing a really nice bale of alfalfa/grass mix.

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dsc_1364When it’s cold and snowy and windy and awful outside, remember all the farmers and ranchers who are taking care of their animals in that weather–feeding animals, breaking water, checking on everyone, dealing with frozen pipes and equipment that won’t start, and freezing their hineys off in the bargain.

(…and bemoan the complete lack of  warm, ranch-friendly maternity wear.)