One February in the late afternoon Carl was out checking the cows. We were in the mist of calving season and we had about 100 cows in a pasture a mile north of the house. The cows bedded down for the night near a stock tank and Carl observed that a heifer was beginning the labor process. So, as the afternoon progressed into a nice moonlit night and a balmy 18 degrees, he decided to just park the pickup and watch the action. Soon he noticed that a mature British White cow was also calving but he was not worried about her at all - she had already calved 7 other calves without any problems. Then a third cow went into labor and things were starting to get interesting. Every so often he would make rounds with his flashlight and try to count to two. He wanted to see two little feet and he wanted them right side up. One by one the heifer and the second cow had their calves and during flashlight rounds he found a third new calf. A good night! However the nice mature cow was not making any progress and try as he might to count two little feet he could only get one.
Now in the good ole days here on the treeless prairie this would have been the time to get a rope, rope the cow and tie her to the pickup. However from experience we have found that cows who are trying to have a calf do not always react well to being roped and tied to a pickup. The result can be a bruised pickup and the body shop does not hesitate to charge a couple thousand dollars to fix a broken grill or bruised fender. So Carl elected to get Barb out of bed, hook up the trailer and try to load a cow that might have been in a trailer once in her life. There was also the small detail that we would have to sort her out from a hundred of her best friends, do it quietly so the friends did not decide to leave and, after sorting, load her. We decided a few portable panels were in order.
We drove out to the pasture, set up our panels and found our cow. We then used our best cow sorting techniques and moved her and three or four others into the panel area. All of them loaded so Carl walked into the trailer while Barb manned the gate and we cut out the cow we wanted. From the time we drove out of the yard to the time we were back at the corral with her in the calving chute was less than 30 minutes. We grinned at each other and said no one is going to believe this.
However there was still the matter of the missing foot so Carl set to work while Barb held the light and tried not think about the balmy 18 degree night. It was soon evident that the calf was alive and being contrary. He had found out that momma was trying to shove him out into that 18 degree night and he preferred to stay right where he was. Carl could push the calf back and then reach the leg but each time he got a hold of it the calf would pull away. Meanwhile Barb was freezing and offering advice such as "You are not going to get that calf, we should call a vet." "Are you sure you do not want me to call a vet?" and "If you mess around with that calf much longer you are going to have a dead calf." Now there is a completely unfounded rumor started by Carl's Dad and carried on by his grade school and high school teachers and various other people that he is stubborn. Let the record show that he is not stubborn but he is determined. He also is laboring under the impression that he is stronger than an unborn calf.
Finally he announced with great relief that he had both legs in position and the calf would soon be born. A good pull revealed two feet but no nose. That calf had ducked his head down and was still refusing to come out. But Carl now had chains around those little feet and with a hand under the calf's chin he pulled that little bull out of there. The cow was very grateful as she cleaned off the calf and only complained a little about how cold Carl's hands were. As it was after midnight we elected not to check cows anymore that night. The next morning we hauled the cow and her bouncing baby boy back to the pasture. Management (Barb) has since instituted a new policy that we bring all of our cows into the home pasture at calving time.