Friday, May 6, 2016

If it all themes darkly disjointed...

And let us all hope that the professional victims and hyphenated souls find plenty of microagression in that title!


Calving season went from challenging to utterly bug-stomping insane this year. Back to back to back winter storms set the stage for some truly interesting, exhausting, and indescribably rewarding days and nights.

As of this morning we've only a dozen cows left to calve, and they'll likely deliver on a more leisurely schedule over the next 30 days. I won't be surprised, however, if they surprise me by dropping their calves this weekend, which is scheduled for -- you guessed it -- the arrival of another wintry weather system.


In a perfect... Well, strike that, in a more typical calving season, we might see a single, relatively brief, winter storm event. Springtime weather systems typically move through a lot faster, yielding about 36-48 hours of unsettled weather with 6-12 hours of frank storminess.

This year the systems have been extremely slow moving, taking 6-7 days to pass through. They've brought plenty of moisture, which is coin of the realm in this part of the country, but the immediate consequence is cold, wet calves. Cold and wet can kill, quickly through hypothermia or less quickly through illness. Cold and wet doesn't cause illness of course, but it does use up finite metabolic energy resources, leaving less energy available to fuel immune system development and response.

Energy is the key, of course, the key to life. This will be argued by most of the people who live in this part of the world but it is, nevertheless, the true state of affairs.

So over the last month I've had the opportunity to address energy management in baby calves. I've carried a lot of calves a long way through deep mud and snow, applied a lot of external energy via radiation and convection, and a lot of internal energy via stomach tube. So far I've been successful, which is to say that the little things I've done have provided the correct support for low energy state calves which are fundamentally sound to begin with. No magic involved, just basic thermodynamics.

Which is not to say that the process doesn't have sweet and magical aspects. But all of the thrill and wonder and delight has to bow to reality or it's all a wasted sham.

I'm increasingly certain that the vast, vast majority of my fellow norte americanos live entirely in fantasy and have rejected reality. The crash is going to be brutal, and it has the potential to make all previous human disasters pale in comparison.

Well, if anything human emerges it should be stronger. That's the way of nature.


  1. You caught that dandelion at just the right moment. I am botanically illiterate, what kind of flower is the pretty red one?

    I am glad the calving is going well, it shows a certain mastery of the craft on your part. BRAVO ZULU, SHAUN! DOG GEORGE, too, since you have English farmer friends. Dog George, RN for Maneuver Well Executed, or Damned Good, if you prefer.

    You are lucky to have a useful job you love, with all kinds of beauty around you. My regards to Tubby and his Mom, this Mother's Day Weekend. Give yours my best, tell her she must be an amazing woman, to raise a Badger Approved Son, so she can claim that title for herself, as well.

  2. It's a dandelion spring here. The red one is a tulip, planted at least 50 years ago by Great-Grandma Maude.

    Thanks for the kind words and particularly for the Dog George.

    Mom is probably the only reason I avoided the electric chair...

  3. You were a Bad Rabbit in the days of your youth?

    1. Let's just say that society wasn't exactly acclimatized to my existence.

  4. Cold, itself does not cause illness, but hypothermia opens the door wide open. And the nasty bugs are waiting to rush in. At last, that is what happens, when I get hypothermic.

  5. As always your observations about life, the prairie, and things in general leave me thoughtful and glad to know you.

    (Playing catch up in my blog reading while sitting on a balcony in Old Town Alexandria. Life can be good.)

  6. Thanks Sarge.

    The life thing can be good indeed!