Ag Experience Insider: Calving Season at the Rollingers

The Rollinger family has been experiencing the joys and lessons of calving season. With giving a tour to a class of 3rd graders and teaching their own children about the cow-calf industry, Tara and Ross have been asked some great questions that lead to even better teaching moments. 

Learning Moments in Agriculture

The most common question at the 3rd-grade field trip that we hosted for Ivy’s class was, “What do you do with the cows?” It’s never easy to explain to younger kids that eventually the cows become food. It sounds harsh when you jump straight to that answer, but Ross always does a good job of breaking it down for people. He explains what a typical day looks like for him and that ultimately our animals are well taken care of. In his words, “We give them the best life possible while they are with us.” And it’s absolutely true.
Something I didn’t realize before learning this little world of “hobby ranching,” is that good mama cows are so important to our whole operation. We have had some of our mama cows for 10 or more years and they have a baby a year. Ross knows which moms are good, meaning they take good care of their calves and don’t get too crabby. He also knows which ones get a little feisty after they give birth, meaning he needs to be extra careful around them when getting them into the barn.
We had a mama cow, who, after giving birth, was terribly mean to her calf. It’s like she didn’t know what was happening (my uncle thinks maybe she spiked a fever during birth). She delivered the calf and then proceeded to knock it down when it would try to get up. She would ram the calf with her head and more. It was awful. We had the calf separated from the mom (that’s a whole different adventure and story) and let the mama calm down. She was like this two years in a row. Thankfully we were home both years this happened and were able to separate them, but I hate to think how it could have ended had we not been home.

The Joys and Lessons of Calving Season

Calving season is the cutest time of year, but certainly not the easiest time of year. If Ross is anything, he’s diligent. So he is always checking on cows when he thinks they’re getting close to calving. He checks them before he leaves in the morning (before 6), our loyal neighbor checks them around lunch time, the kids and I check them after school, Ross checks them in the evening, and he gets up at least once in the middle of the night to see if any of the mamas are in labor. Ross is dedicated to the work. So much so that he taught the kids at very young ages how to know if a mama cow is getting close to calving. “You need to look for a swollen vagina (you can imagine how that went over), if she’s bagging up (full, heavy utters), and she’ll separate herself from the other cows.”
The kids have witnessed births. They love the calves and of course, name each one. They, too, get to know their temperament and the cycle starts over. Right now, I can sit on the porch and see all sorts of little, playful calves out in the green field and be proud of how hard Ross works.