AMY KIRK: Sorting springersThe ranch task of sorting springers (cows that start showing early signs of calving) could be described as calving season “busy work” consisting of a time-consuming activity that involves sorting out cows that mislead livestock handlers into thinking the cows are going to have their calves soon.
By: Amy Kirk, The Daily Republic
The ranch task of sorting springers (cows that start showing early signs of calving) could be described as calving season “busy work” consisting of a time-consuming activity that involves sorting out cows that mislead livestock handlers into thinking the cows are going to have their calves soon.
A tiny percentage of the springer bunch will actually calve shortly after being sorted off for close monitoring but for the most part, the majority of the springers enjoy a few days or even weeks of freeloading before getting down to the business of calving. This in turn leads to additional busy work referred to as “cleaning out the barn” of all the muck created from their extended stay in the barn.
Our main purpose in sorting out the springers is to eliminate the hassle of having to get a cow or heifer (first-time calver) and new calf in the barn at 2 a.m. or having to warm a chilled calf; to keep calves alive, basically. We establish which cows have the potential to calve and get them and all heifers in close to the barn. Sorting springers starts with being on the lookout for the ones acting weird or going through bodily changes such as springing. The word “springing” is an interesting adjectival term used to describe the visual appearance of a cow’s caboose in the early stages of calving.
At nightfall we put the springers in the barn. The first thing they like to do once we shut the barn doors is enjoy the luxury of relieving themselves inside our nice clean, dry barn. Most of them seem to prefer waiting until they’re shut inside the barn before doing any pooping or peeing.
Next, my husband and I spend time looking over each springer and disputing which ones should go in a calving pen. Some of these arguments are resolved by agreeing to a little wager. The top seven springers that look closest to calving go in the pens. The objective being that if they do calve, the little snipes won’t get trampled on and there’s less chance for other cows in the barn to try claiming it. Being separated from the main bunch allows for better bonding to occur without the distraction of other curious cows checking out the new arrival. The rest of the springers spend the night in the largest area of the barn between the two rows of calving pens.
Once we have all the springers in, the self-conscious ones begin the process of stalling. These modest cows are capable of reversing the signs that they’re calving and/or the calving progress. This enables them to milk the system so they can take advantage of eating at the less crowded hay rack, lounging around the barn during the day, and then chewing cud in the cozy barn at night.
All that a good sorting in the barn does is reassure us that there will be a new calf among the springers that didn’t get put in a pen and no calving activity within the pens.
By daylight, though, it really doesn’t matter how things turned out during the night. Every morning my husband and I also spend a good deal of time sorting out any problems that occurred overnight.