Over the last few months I have come to the conclusion that a farmer having their first calf (aka a baby) is like buying their first farm or their first year fully managing the family farm. It is a little scary, a little overwhelming, and involves a whole lot of excitement. My husband bought the family farm from his uncle when he was just 21. He was “showered” with advice from others that first year. People shared all the things that can happen when you go into “business” for yourself. It’s like an expecting mother who is starting to show. It seems there is a waiting list of people to offer their advice, tips and the best way to do things.
If you are like my husband and I, who are starting from scratch on an old farm, you know a lot of time is spent praying that things work. When we started out we prayed that the weather would cooperate, that the medicine we gave a sick cow would work, that each new calf would be born strong and healthy, that the new bull we brought home would do his job and that nothing would break so that we could finally go on our first date in months.
Fast forward through nine years of marriage and now that same couple is again spending a lot of time praying that their baby will be born strong and healthy, that they will be good parents, will be able to provide everything that their new little bundle deserves along with everything else that they having been praying for over the last 11 years.
For those of you that live on a farm you know what spring time means: mud, hopefully some sun, late nights and early mornings tending to your fields and livestock. Now, add in having your first child to the craziness of spring and you have a whole new level of crazy. The good news is that we were smart enough to spend the last 11 years working on a streamlined process for the hectic spring season. However there really is no preparation for certain things that happen on the farm. Just like two people joining the world of parenting, no amount of preparation can really prepare you for what is to come.
As we know, farmers have their own language. They use terms such as: freshening, spring heifer, parlor, and inflations. It is natural to use terms you are most familiar with whether you farm or not. The problem though is when you talk with your doctor or non-ag-friends about your expected freshening date, what kind of mobile parlor you should buy (aka breast pump), or if you can test breast milk to find out what kind of butterfat it has. They are going to be EXTREMLY confused.
Let’s not even mention the conversations that happen at home between the farmer and wife about what to pack in the hospital bag. The wife prepares her list and asks for the farmer’s input, only to have him ask why bailer twine, the calf jack or rubber boots didn’t make the list!
And all those baby toys, gizmos and gadgets that have over taken the house? Let’s just say it’s a good thing we have 11 years of experience working on trusty old equipment which sometimes includes fixing things that no longer have the manual.
As the days get closer to my freshening date, one thing is for sure. We are even more excited for our first child as we were the day we had our first calf born on the farm. We will love it, protect it, and shower it with love, just as we’ve done with our cows, calves and land. After all, the last 11 years have been spent preparing the legacy we hope to someday leave to our most treasured calf.
Ashleigh Calaway grew up in Lafayette County and is a graduate of UW-River Falls with a degree in agricultural education. Along with her husband, Josh, she served on the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Agriculturist Committee, representing District 8 and now is the district coordinator for that area. She is responsible for working with county Farm Bureaus to develop and implement programs to serve Farm Bureau members and to coordinate membership recruitment and retention efforts.