The arrival of a favorite ‘gift’

pink baby booties

When I first moved to the ranch, I didn’t know what the word heifer meant. It seemed to be used interchangeably to describe both a young cow and female cow, but I kept confusing it with the word Hereford, so I thought it might also be a breed of cattle. 

The man of the ranch finally set me straight when it came time to “calve heifers.” The term does indeed mean young cow AND female cow. 

Unknown quantity

As for calving heifers, I trudged through enough deep snow that February to learn the true meaning personally. You see, a first-time mom, in the cow world, is an unknown quantity. 

Some have their babies without trouble, are great mothers and don’t need any intervention from humans. For others, things don’t go so smoothly, and in the most extreme cases, some may need to have their babies “pulled.” I’ll leave it to you to imagine what that entails. 

Just in case, all heifers need to be closely watched, since it is anybody’s guess who will have a tough time, and who won’t. And because there is no such thing as “What to Expect When You are Expecting” for heifers, when they first go into labor, the poor girls are almost always a little freaked out. 

Now, I DID read “What to Expect,” but with my first child, I was still pretty freaked out too. Also — and I haven’t admitted this to many people — at some point in the middle of the long night of laboring, I had the distinct thought, “Someone needs to pull this calf!” 

Delivery ended up going fairly smoothly, thank goodness, so if I were a cow, I would have been put out to pasture and trusted to handle labor and delivery all on my own the second time around — which, as it turned out, was very nearly what happened. 

Second time

As my second pregnancy drew to a close, I’d begun having labor pains every evening. When they got a little stronger a few days before Christmas, I took note, but didn’t get too excited.

All through the night, I was awoken by contractions, but they were pretty far apart. Plus, with my son peacefully asleep in his bed, and the grandma who we’d planned to have stay with him when we went to the hospital several hours away, I really wanted to wait until daylight before stirring two households from their dreams. 

By morning, the pain was stronger, but compared to how labor had felt the first time, didn’t seem too bad. We called grandma, I packed my bag, and we waited. I tried to time my contractions but kept losing track (that will happen with a busy 18-month-old to distract you.) 

As grandma was pulling up the driveway, things suddenly seemed to take an abrupt turn. I worried we’d waited too long. I calmly mentioned this to my husband, who drove the 45 miles to the hospital ever so slightly faster than usual. 

When we pulled up to the ER door, they asked if I’d like a wheelchair and I said, “Yes, I think I’d better.” We sailed up to our room, ready for the hard work ahead. Emmy Rose was born less than an hour later — giving us just enough time to complete the hospital paperwork. 

Our doctor and our doula, who were working at a different clinic that day, barely made it in time to see her arrival. My husband, who had stepped out in the hall for a minute to take a phone call, also nearly missed her first appearance, her entry into the world was that immediate. 

I, for my part, was gratefully ecstatic as well as astonished — there was no time to think of pulling the calf with this delivery. Not only did she oblige us by coming quickly and during daylight, but she gracefully avoided the storms that blanketed the county with snow for the rest of winter. 

Roo was and is the best Christmas present our family could ever wish for, and along with the birth of the child of light, gives us something joyful to celebrate this time of year — another blessing to count and cherish.


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!

Previous articleReflecting on the New Year
Next articleODNR grant to aid venison donations
Eliza Blue is a shepherd, folk musician and writer residing in western South Dakota. In addition to writing her weekly column, Little Pasture on the Prairie, she writes and produces audio postcards from her ranch and just released her first book, Accidental Rancher. She also has a weekly show, Live from the Home Farm, that broadcasts on social media every Saturday night from her ranch.



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.