A never-ending work day for cattle producers during calving season
Even after dark, the work doesn't stop for farmers and ranchers during calving season.
ARMOUR, S.D. — Farming and ranching is no 9 to 5 job.
For cattle producers, calving season means being ready for anything — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means they are up at all hours of the night, monitoring cows and checking for new calves.
When the light is fading over Fuoss Farms, in Armour, South Dakota, the nighttime calving shift is just beginning.
“Night checks kind of start at last light,” said farmer Daniel Fuoss. “We check and make sure nothing is going on. If there is, you wait about an hour and check again. But after last light we wait until about 2 a.m. when we check again and then we will go through and walk through them if they are packed in a tight area or we will drive the 4-wheeler around and we just try to look at every cow and make sure no one is calving at 2.”
Not only are they checking for new calves, but they are making sure that no cows are having complications.
“Mainly if we have any cows having backwards calves that they aren’t able to have on their own in time,” said Daniel. “Every calf you save is a big influence on your profit for the year.”
“The biggest concern is calving issues, whether it be too large of a calf for the cow to have on their own, or the peculiar ones like the backwards ones, the upside downs, anything you might need to pull or even get a vet out in a real severe case,” said Mark Fuoss, who also farms the operation.
So far, they haven’t had any complications this year, but regular checks are still important.
“It’s been pretty non-eventful at night, which is nice not having to stay up all night long to drag calves in the sled in,” said Daniel.
The cows are checked once again in the morning at around 6:30 a.m., then at around 8 a.m. The new calves are checked on and cared for.
“Check on everyone that’s new, make sure they got up and sucked, and put a tag and vaccinate them,” said Daniel.
But they continue to do what they can to make sure every cow and calf are safe and healthy.
“Just make sure every cow has an easy birthing period and no issues with the calf coming backwards, upside down, twins,” said Daniel. “You especially got to be careful with twins. They are important to get in right away, get them in a tighter area with the cow that way she takes both calves without issues. I mean, if you wait two hours, she may not want one of them by that point. So, it’s important to get every calf with cow immediately and make sure it’s a good start.”
The snowfall and temperatures made for some muddy conditions in their cattle lots and pastures this April. This can create some challenges when trying to calve.
“A lot of calves just being born in a muddy area, maybe not even born in it. They get up and try to walk and they are stumbling around and they will fall in the mud, so they get muddy and that can sometimes confuse the cows, making them not want them so much. So we have to get them in and make sure the cow takes them and they get a good start to life,” said Daniel.
And with rain in the forecast, that could cause more issues as they continue with calving season.
“Maybe some cold, rainy spells, which could create scours issues in the calves and just not healthy calves would be our biggest concern,” said Daniel.
With planting season coming quickly, that will mean less time to carefully watch over the cattle.
“As we get more into the fields, there’s less time to watch the cows a little bit, so we will maybe have to take a little extra time, sort some off that we think are getting close, the first calf heifers that you are most likely to have issues with,” said Daniel.
But it’s a family business, and they are thankful to work aside one another throughout it all.
“It takes a lot of pressure off. If one person has to do everything, days get pretty long, so there’s time to do other things, other chores around the farm,” said Mark.
“It’s a unique experience getting to come back,” Daniel said. “It’s fun to see how the farm is progressing with every generation taking its impact on the farm. It’s nice to work with family every day and be close with all your family.”
The Fuoss’ have 134 cows to calve this year and expect to be done around the beginning of June.