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Farmers busy with calving season

By Staff | Apr 18, 2014

Tim Chapman/PCT Calving is well under way at the farm of Nathan and Elizabeth Blessum. These calves rested on Wednesday evening at the farm, which is about 7 miles east and 3 miles south of Rugby.

The Blessums saw their first calf of 2014 when a heifer gave birth on March 10. The family has about 60 now, but expect a total of a few hundred by the time calving season ends in early June.

The joint operation includes brothers Jim and Brian Blessum, and Brian’s son Nathan and wife Elizabeth.

Calving means near 24-hour attention to the heifers, cows and calves.

“Last night since it was cold, everyone took a shift,” Elizabeth Blessum said Wednesday at the family’s land, which includes space in Pierce and Benson Counties. “There’s an early shift, a shift at 3:30 (a.m.) and another at 6. We have to make sure they don’t freeze their ears.”

If temperatures drop too low, the animals are moved inside. Elizabeth Blessum said the heifers are close to being done calving and the cows are starting up. Chores throughout the day include feeding the cows, bedding the pens and observing to spot any sick animals. Nathan Blessum said his wife does the majority of the calving work.

“I usually go out and tag them and castrate them,” she said. “You want to castrate them within the first day or two or they’ll get too fast and run away.”

Said Nathan Blessum: “We’ll get about 25 (new calves) on a good day, but eight to 12 on average.”

The family could do without the recent cold, but said this year is going much smoother than last year.

“So far it’s been really good,” Elizabeth Blessum said. “It’s been a lot better than last year. It was cold and wet.”

Jim Blessum described last year as wet and slushy, but this year’s colder temperatures also came at a cost.

“It took a lot of hay,” he said. “It took a lot more feed this winter because of the cold.”

Attention to the newborns is pivotal throughout the year. Elizabeth Blessum said issues can occur in pastures, but a good year is marked by losing no more than 3 to 5 percent of the calves.

“In summer, you pray they stay in pasture, pray that it rains so grass stays green and the water hole stays full,” Nathan Blessum said.

Editor’s note: Have a good calving story or another idea relating to agriculture? Contact

the Tribune at 776-5252 or tchapman@



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