Calving Book Terminology

The heifers are calving right along and we have been blessed with a few days of spring like weather. Last night we got some heavy wet snow.

When we start calving cows our days get crazy busy and the calving book becomes a lifeline. Most ranchers I know keep a calving book; they carry it almost everywhere they go from the start of calving until calf weaning.

We keep two calving books. One stays in the calving box. The box is strapped to the front of J’s 4-wheeler; we keep ear tags, ear tag buttons, the tagger, the calving book and a pencil in it. J keeps a second identical calving book in his shirt pocket.

March 11

A calving book has several columns to keep a rancher organized. This is how the calving book works on our operation:

Cow No. –Self explanatory.

Calf No. – We tag our calves in order by birth 1,2,3,4,5 and so on. It’s really important to get the correct cow and calf numbers recorded.

Birth Date – This is the day the calf is tagged. When the cows are calving we tag at least twice a day.

Sex – Bull or Heifer.

Calving Ease Code – In this column we put a check mark when the calf has had it’s at birth shot.

Birth Wt. – This is where we mark down if the calf is a BB = Black Baldly. Unless you are me and prefer to call them BWF = Black White Face.

March 11

Remarks – This is where the Rancher keeps his personal notes. He makes comments on such things as:

Pulled – If the calf was pulled. Pulled Tail First or Backwards Calf.

Graft – If the calf was grafted on to another mother.

Twins – Especially if the twins are a bull and heifer. Heifers that are twins to a bull are infertile.

Woofy – The cow has an attitude problem. This also has variants such as extremely woofy or MEAN! These cows are few and far between, but important to note.

Knock Down Calf, Hit Calf, or Kicked Calf – This refers to a cow that knocks down her calf and will not let it suck. In extreme cases J will note Hated Calf- Sell. These are characteristics of an unmotherly cow.

Walked Away – This means the cow calved and walked away from her calf and pretended she did not have a calf. Again, not a very motherly action.

Granny – This is when a cow claims or tries to claim a calf that was not her own. This frequently happens when the “granny” is starting to calf and can cause major confusion.

Suckled Calf – J had to help the calf suck for the first time.

Big Bag – Cow has big teats and/or the calf had a hard time sucking when it was born. Sometimes this goes hand-in-hand with suckled calf.

Red Cow – We have 4 red cows and marking them in the book helps when checking cattle in the summer.

Last year I saw a something new in the calving book, TI. I went through terms I have heard J use and I was not coming up with anything for TI. I asked what it means; Temporary Insanity. This is when the cow has characteristics of senselessness, but gets over it and loves her calf. This foolishness can last from an hour or two up to a day.

March 11

If you turn to the last pages of J’s calving book he keeps track of sick calves that have been treated, the date they were treated and what he gave them. Also recorded are any calves that have died and the date. He also starts a list of cows that need to be sold. J keeps track of these notes when it’s fresh on his mind to help jog his memory come fall when we sell cull cows.

J has every calving book since we moved home. During calving season he often checks last year’s book (sometimes past years too) to see if there were any comments made about a cow in question.  As you can tell the calving book has a wealth of information important to managing a cattle heard.

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23 Responses to Calving Book Terminology

  1. Laurie - Country Link says:

    As I am in the process of entering calves into the computer with the breed association, the calving book and Gpa’s memory are very important. He spends so much time with them that he does not even have to see the ear tag many time to know which cow is which. We also note the mean cows or ones with an “attitude” problem.

    • Robyn says:

      Does your family raise registered cattle? If so what breed?

      J is pretty good about knowing the cows and remembering who he has had issues with; that is a characteristic my Dad has too. When I was a kid it always amazed me how he could remember that and every cow’s genealogy.

  2. Cheri says:

    I also keep a calving book. But just for the heifers. I have a notebook for the cows. But just for notes. Who lost a calf, issues or anything that comes thru the barn. We don’t tag the cows calves unless we mug them and they need a shot, then we give them a shot tag.
    I like looking back in past books at the comments. Lol. There was one comment that Cameron put in. Big talking cow! Haha.
    Keep the sanity during this crazy time!

    • Robyn says:

      For your shot tag, do you use an ear tag or “tag” them by marking chalk? Do you take the shot tags out? If so, when?

      Keeping notes “in the moment” is so important. We tend to easily forget which cows had issues when we get pairs out and definitely over the summer.

      • cheri says:

        For an antibiotic shot, the tag we use is just a strip tag in the ear. We leave it in there forever. Write the date and what was given. La300, bolus. When we sell our calves, the ones with tags cant go all natural if that’s what the buyer wants.
        Its amazing how soon we “forget” what happened the other day when we are calving..Every day just runs into the next.

  3. Jona says:

    I’m so much smarter now than before I read this! Love it!
    Thanks for giving this “town kid” and education. Ha ha!

  4. I enjoyed learning about your calving books, Robyn!
    Many of the items you addressed are things my local farm friend, Alaina has been conversing with me about as they are calving.
    They had a walk-away and lost a calf due to the extreme cold, very disappointing.
    They also had foster a calf who’s mother wasn’t milking – onto a mother who lost her calf. She used peppermint spray on the cow’s nose & the calf’s body – and it was a success. I enjoy these from your ranch & her farm during these very busy days!

  5. J. Rhoades says:

    So detailed, I love it! We only have 16 cows right now, so our “calving book” is just a little clipboard with a single piece of paper. That’s more that what we sometimes do though – most of the time all the information is stuck in my head and I have to rack my brain to figure it out! Crazy how I can remember the details of all the calves a cow has had for the past four years but I can’t remember to get milk at the grocery store, lol!

  6. Rancher Girl says:

    We too have a calving book. It is Flower Boy’s life line. When he is gone and Drewman and I have to do chores, we couldn’t do it without the book. Our book also has feed amounts, counts per pasture and the rotation of hay type.

  7. Buttons says:

    Oh I love this terminology I have “Mean cow” I think she would rather be termed “Woofy” but she is still mean. IT I love it. We have record books that go back to 1979 and they are fun to read. Bossy2 comes from a long line of “Granny”. Red cow we until tagged had a lot of fun with that one with Herefords:) Love this Robyn. Count down to my new book:) Hug B

  8. Kim says:

    I’d never heard the term “Woofy” either. Randy’s methodology is less detailed, but we still have “the list.” I loved your photos of the mamas and babies, especially the second one in the barn.

  9. Candy C. says:

    I can see how all that info is very important, especially when it’s time to decide who needs to go. Do you guys ever bottle feed if a cow rejects her calf? “Woofy” is a very good term for an animal with a ‘tude! 😉

    • Robyn says:

      It just depends on the situation. We have had time or two when a cow simply would not take her calf. Things happen so fast during calving we can usually use the calf as a graph. Yes, if need be we will bottle feed.

      My twins get a bottle 3 times a day. We are supplementing them to help the cow out. They are starting to recognize me and are always glad to see me.

  10. Linda R says:

    WOW! I had no idea all that goes into Calving. I Loved hearing your story about it.


  11. Karen says:

    This was interesting to learn about, Robyn. I’ve never thought about managing a herd – it sounds a bit confusing.

  12. Details,details…very important and good to know your system♪

  13. what a fascinating and informative post and marvelous photos and what hard work you both have but you seem to enjoy it ~ that’s the important thing ~ Birth is always a miracle to me each time a ‘babe’ is born (animal or human)

    artmusedog and carol

    • Robyn says:

      Glad you learned something from my post. We do enjoy working with livestock and being able to enjoy the prairie life.
      I agree, the birth of a human or animal is amazing.

  14. Loved the “woofy” and “TI” explanations. Describes me on certain days. 🙂

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