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Iowa farms spring to life with newborn calves

Spring may officially start on Mar. 20, but some farmers have already started their spring season, spring calving season, that is. It’s Luke Schuldt’s favorite time of the year, hands down.

“This is really the beginning of the year for us,” said Schuldt who farms near Tripoli with his wife, Linsey, a pharmacist, and son, Levi and daughter Lara. “Driving a combine can be fun, but nothing compares to calving,” said Schuldt, a fifth-generation farmer on the farm established by his great-great grandfather in 1878.

The miracle of birth on Schuldt’s farm, is being repeated all over Iowa as the spring calving season gets off to a good start. The Schuldts, this year, are keeping watch over 23 cows. They started building the herd, a Hereford-Angus mix, about 10 years ago when they started farming.

As the newborn calves get going, Schuldt devotes a lot of time and energy providing dry bedding. This is especially important given that Iowa just experienced the wettest winter on record set over 100 years ago. “The cows have a tendency to get away from the others when they’re in labor,” said Schuldt. “So dry bedding and a wind break are crucial. If a calf is born in the mud, I’ll pick up the calf and carry it to a dry location.”

There’s also a bit of cow-calf match making for the young farmer. He was bottle feeding an orphan calf in the family basement, and came upon a solution. “We matched her with another cow that lost a calf,” said Schuldt. “It’s working out great.”

Building a herd is one of the goals for the Schuldt family, and they’d like to put up a structure to keep the animals out of the elements. “It would be nice to put up a hoop barn,” said Schuldt. “That would provide a dry place for the animals and help me watch the newborns more closely.” Here's more on the advantages of calving under roof.

But even with the cold weather and mud, Schuldt wouldn’t be anywhere else during the calving season. “Even though it’s a tough job, calving brings a smile to my face. I do love it,” he said with a smile.

Photos and content by Gary Fandel. Gary is photographer/writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.