Top 5 Surprising Things About Calving Season

Posted by Julia Reinisch, Contributor | 05.01.2019



Calving season. It's a time of new life and excitement, but just like finals week or even having a new baby of your own, you're going to feel a whole new level of exhaustion. And, you're still going to have to do the impossible by functioning (semi)-normally in society. 


Oh, calving season. 


To some, countless hours of cow checks and trying to move angsty heifers into maternity stalls doesn't sound like their idea of a good time. They may even ask, "Why?"


For those who have never experienced a calving season, here's an inside peek into some surprising things learned out in the field. 


And to those who continue this honorable line of work, perhaps you'll be able to relate to—and even chuckle at—these five observations about calving season. 


The Top 5 Surprising Things About Calving Season




Note: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional veterinary care. Always keep the number for your local veterinary clinic available for reference.



#1 - If you feed cows at night, they are more likely to give birth during the day. 


No, we're not making this up. In several ranching research trials, it was found that feeding cows at dusk increases your chances of calves being born during daylight hours. When cows give birth during the day, it is much easier to provide supervision over the process—which can significantly reduce instances of calf mortality. 


But why does this feeding schedule work? It comes down to the cow's natural digestive process. 




When a cow feeds, the rumen—the first of the cow's four stomachs—increases the pressure inside of it to help process roughage that it has eaten. Studies on rumen motility show that the rumen will naturally slow its digestive contractions in the last two weeks of gestation. The intraruminal pressure declines most rapidly just a few hours before a cow gives birth (parturition). 


So, if the rumen's digestive contractions occur at night after a night feeding, this does naturally increase the chances of the intraruminal pressure decreasing during the day, increasing chances that the cow will give birth during daylight. 



#2 - You notice things differently.


When you're functioning on little sleep, it's interesting to see what kinds of things bring you moments of joy. Even in a tired stupor, you develop a unique sense of awareness to things you may have overlooked before.



For example, when you have to get up at 3:00 am, coffee has a way of tasting SO much better. It's like a sweet gift to your lips that warms your soul while giving you the jolt you need to venture into the cold air. 


You also develop skills and routines that others might find curious. Other calvers understand why you've earned calving bragging rights when you can fall alseep on your couch in under 30 seconds in between checks.



#3 - Wearing your sweatpants for that quick heifer check is a bad idea.


It doesn't matter what time of year you calve, calving season always comes with its fair share of bitter cold nights. Even if you follow our tip in #1 and try to get most of your cows to give birth during daylight, it's not guaranteed to work 100% and chances are you're still going to be up during some nights as well. 


Even if you think you're going to be running outside for a 15-minute check, something always comes up and it ends up being over an hour of moving calving heifers. By then, you find yourself shivering miserably. 


That's why it's so important to make sure that you dress in layers made of high-quality materials. Look for layers that are warm, that wick away moisture from your body, that are durable, and that have a bit of stretch so they're comfortable for long periods of time. 



The Carhartt Men's Base Force Extremes Cold Weather Crewneck provides that extra layer to keep you comfortable while working outside this season.




Smartwool's best selling and warmest base layer, the Women's Merino 250 Base Layer Crew, has chafe-free seam construction and panels that offer more comfort.



#4 - There are apps to help with calving.


From identifying plants with photos to pretending to be a slice of bread that's trying to evolve and become toast, there really is an app for everything. Here are some apps that can help keep you organized while calving and caring for your livestock throughout the year. 


  • Calf Book: Allows you to track calving data, calf weaning, and yearling performance and generate reports by Sire or entire calf crop. It also lets you enter breeding information on your cowherd and project calving dates. Get it for iOS or Android
  • BCI Pregnancy Analytics: Developed by Kansas State University, allows producers to collect beef cattle pregnancy data and receive visual statistical representations of their data overlaid with industry benchmarks. You can also track pasture/herd name, ID, age, body condition score and number of days bred. Get it for iOS or Android
  • MSUES Cattle Calculator: Developed by the Mississippi State Extension to make quick, everyday calculations for important operations in Reproduction, Performance, and Management. Get it for iOS or Android.
  • iCattleMgrPro and iLivestockMgr: Track over 90 pieces of information about the health, well being, and status of your livestock inventory. iCattleMgrPro and iLivestockMgr are only available for iOS devices or as a desktop application.






Don't worry, even if you don't plan to calve anytime soon, there's still a farm and ranch app out there for you! 


  • Hay Day: The game is an actively developing farm where you can grow plants, take care of animals, plant trees, and even fish, and extract various minerals from the mine. Get it for iOS and Android.
  • Township: Build your dream town by harvesting crops, processing them at your facilities, and selling goods. Get it for iOS or Android
  • Milk The Cow: Lets you, well, milk the cow. Compete with friends to see who can fill the bucket with milk the fastest. Get it for iOS or Android.



#5 - Once you've been through a calving season, you can literally do anything. 


Once you establish your routine, handling your daily tasks on top of the responsibilities of calving no longer phases you. You've already been pushed to an insane lack of sleep while being pooped, peed, and stepped on.





You've come to accept your fate and can now flow from one small crisis to another without batting an eye. 


Frozen water line? Bring it on. 


Animals escaped via a broken gate? No problem. 


Accidentally left the tractor in gear? Yikes, but you've got this. 


Kids running late for school? We stand in silent solidarity with you. 



First time calving? 


We're here to help! Stop by any JAX Ranch & Home store to get all of your questions answered. Whether you need advice on how to handle a unique livestock situation, need to snag some last minute supplies, or want to share your experiences with calving, our friendly staff are available for you. 


Customer Service: (970) 488-3250 EXT 1 Monday - Friday 9am to 5pm MTN                  WE'RE HIRING!