I’ll admit I’m not much of a sports fan, but when it comes to the Olympic Winter Games, I take a keen interest. I enjoy watching sports that don’t normally get a lot of coverage and I feel pride for Canada (and Saskatchewan!) when our athletes do well. Plus, it’s televised at odd hours of the day, which is kind of handy at this time of year when we are awake during those odd hours monitoring our birthing bovines.
It is calving season on our ranch and calving cows is not an official Olympic sport but it can feel a bit like a marathon at times. Similar to the Olympics, there are certain activities or “events” that are symbolic to calving. Below are some common events that can be fun or not-so-fun depending on the weather, the cows and my varying levels of sleep deprivation.
- Cross-Country Freestyle Pen Walk: Manure, when fresh, is gooey but fairly easy to walk on or through. A cold cow patty is a much different story. Walking across a pen full of these hard, unpredictable lumps is a lot like walking on gigantic marbles, and about as graceful as it sounds. The competitor in this event must employ whatever freestyle moves necessary to avoid falling. To be successful, they must remain focused and maintain excellent balance. I don’t usually score so well in this one.
- One-Person Calf Sled Pull: When a cow gives birth in the coldest corner of the pen and the wind chill is a brisk -45C, the nice thing to do is move her and her newborn into a warm, dry spot. Putting the calf in a sled and bringing it to a more inviting environment should be a fairly simple job. Factors such as the slippery nature of a newborn calf, the hormonal nature of a post-parturient cow and the aforementioned frozen turds can make sledding a calf quite a sport. Inevitably, the calf escapes the sled at least two times prior to reaching the finish line.
- Corral Panel High Jump – this event, while sounding ambitious, is actually inspired by laziness. A spontaneous event, the athlete, when checking the calving pens for the 12th time that day, must mentally assess the energy requirements of walking all the way to the gate versus the energy requirements of scaling the panel closest to the exit of their choice. The level of difficulty increases with every additional layer of clothing the player puts on.
- Coverall-Clad Horse Mount – As the temperature decreases, the layers of clothing one wears to brave the great outdoors increases. These additional layers can complicate matters when the participant is attempting to mount a horse. Immensely popular as a spectator sport, the coverall-clad horse-mount can cause an intense pressure to perform which is tough on competitors. Or so I’ve heard.
- Bed-to-barn Relay– Every so often, there may be an occasion requiring immediate bed-to-barn mobilization. For this event, the contestant needs to wake, dress and be in the barn in a matter of minutes, if not sooner. Sometimes the player is even encouraged with a robust “Hurry hard! Hurry hard!” although it’s often unsportsmanlike language that may be hollered.
When participating in the calving season marathon, it’s important to pace yourself. A rally late in the game can boost your spirits, and leave you ending the season faster, higher and stronger. Or at the very least remain upright