Born yesterday — Warm weather ushers in spring livestock ritual
By ROD DANIEL – Ravalli Republic
More than a few ranchers are taking afternoon naps these days as the spring ritual of livestock bearing begins again in the Bitterroot.
Rod Hudson and his son Tim started calving in late January on the Hyatt Ranch off Tammany Lane and are now busy with the yearly, round-the-clock routine of checking calves. Sleeping in a trailer adjacent to the cow pasture, the father-son team trades off though the night, making sure there are no problems.
“I check ’til about midnight, and Tim checks ’em at 3 a.m.,” the elder Hudson said. “Then I get up at sunrise and check ’em again.”
With about 250 bred cows – mostly black Angus with a few red Angus and Herefords mixed in – the Hudsons don’t try to check the entire herd, rather they focus on the younger bred heifers.
“We’re watching the heifers round the clock, because they’re the ones that are most likely to have problems calving,” he said.
Hudson said his cows probably start calving a little earlier than those of most ranchers in the valley, because he’s aiming for a little older animal at market. And while they’ve already got about 50 calves on the ground, the really busy time is yet to come.
“We’re just now getting in the thick of things,” he said, “February and March are the big months, and by the first part of April we’ll pretty much have it wrapped up.”
After ranching for 30 years, Hudson said calving is his favorite part of the year, despite the loss of sleep. And this year, so far, has been easy because of the milder-than-normal temperatures.
“The weather has been fantastic,” he said. “We had one night of snowing and blowing, but other than that it’s been perfect. You never know what you’re gonna get going into it, and it’s always a challenge. What’s really the worst is when it gets down below zero.”
Cattle ranchers aren’t the only ones busy with animal midwifery this time of year; the valley’s sheep herds are rapidly multiplying as well.