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Calving season underway for Mayfield area rancher

"It's a fun time of year because that's when you get those new calves."

BOISE, Idaho — It's not quite spring yet, but for a ranch nestled in the foothills of the Mayfield area, calves are making their moo-ve

According to the Department of Agriculture, there are more cows than people in the Gem State. With cattle being our second largest agricultural sector, cows are a pretty big deal here.

Calving season is in full swing at Lord Ranch and for Jeff Lord, that means it's an especially busy time.

The Lord family has been on their property since 1945; Lord said, "for all my life and my grandad's life and my dad's life, it's been the center of our universe."

Lord and his son, Colby, are watching their herd closely to ensure the calves' maturation goes smoothly. 

Although it can be taxing, requiring frequent and consistent monitoring in the middle of the night and early morning hours, Lord said the responsibility comes with the territory.

"It's just a time to get those calves on the ground and get them growing and do what we do," said Lord.

"I like gathering in the fall, I like all of it, it's just different time of year, different jobs. This is one that you don't really get as much sleep as others."

Sleep depends on how Lord's herd is doing. Lord said he normally gets up between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. for he and his son to begin feeding and checking on the animals. Typically, they check on the heifers every 3 to 4 hours. A heifer is a cow that's never had a calf before. 

Lord said, "It's a lot of responsibility, these are our animals and we care for them. Everybody has a different way of raising cattle, some people are less intense and some people more."

Lord added that he calves in February but not all ranchers do things the same way. He thinks working with what your ranch has to offer is important, "you might want to be a fall calver, but it might not work for your ranch."

Lord said in his area, the season for green grass in the spring is really short.

"Idaho green grass in this part of the state is pretty fleeting. So, you want to get the most advantage of it while it's there." 

Lord chooses February to calve, in hopes that the winter isn't too harsh and the new additions to the herd can utilize the spring grasses.

Even with Lord's years of experience and constant watching and waiting, he said it can still be tough to tell when cows are ready to give birth. 

"Our cows will fool you, we'll have cows that show all the signs of calving, and they won't for a month...When you start thinking you know everything about a cow, they'll fool you every time."

One thing Lord does know for sure is how to tell if a mother and calf are bonding. 

"We like to see that they've nursed...that heifer over there, she's starting to lick it (her calf) ...when she licks him that's their way of loving them and that motivates them to get up, and they know that's their momma."

"Even in this little field, they'll try to hide those calves. The first one born, he hid from me every night. I'd drive this field in the dark with my flashlight trying to find him, and I don't know where she hid him, I never did find him. But he showed up the next morning ready to eat."

Seeing signs like these are a mark of success, after lots of hard work. But Lord said he'd take hard work over luck any day.

"I think hard work is a little more predictable than luck, personally...It's not that hard to get up and look. They say one of the best things you can do for your land is put your shadow on it. That's what we try to do."

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