One of the classic commodities produced here in Montana is beef.  No surprise, right?  


So when my friend Gloria Veltkamp mentioned in a comment that it was calving season I was inspired that this was a great activity to document for the Producers series I challenged myself with this year.  


Calving season began way back in January, which is when these photos were taken.  But I knew that wasn’t all there is to producing cattle.  So, this installment of the Producers is going to take two parts – part one is related to calving and all those “cute” little babies.  Part two, which should post tomorrow, will include photos of getting bulls to market – preparation and auction.

As a side note, these particular animals that I’m highlighting are bred to sell the bulls to other producers.  So these are not animals that are going to be sold for slaughter, but instead, sold for stud.   

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The whole operation is a family affair.  Gloria’s husband, Darin, is the rancher at the top of the heap, but all four of their kids get involved – and Gloria too.  As we were driving around checking calves, Darin told me he doesn’t want to ever be so big that his family can’t do the ranching themselves.  So, while they have a lot of animals, they keep it very manageable.


These little calves are born during one of Montana’s coldest months.  A lot of hours goes into driving to the fields and walking around to check on the babes to be sure they are healthy and getting their needs met.

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Calves that are up and around when Darin arrives are pretty sure to be okay.  The ones curled up on the ground are probably okay too, but Darin has to connect with them and make sure they are able to get up and walk around.  If one is not able to get up that is a sign that perhaps some illness has set in or the calf is in need of some help.

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While I was there all the calves got up and were deemed healthy.


Although it is not a giant factory farm by any stretch of the imagination, getting around from field to field requires a bit of time, and a lot of fence opening and closing.

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As I was there early in the calving season, there were new calves to check on from the night before.  They have to be recorded, tagged and vaccinated as they are “certified.”


This is one of the “paper work” portions of the operation.


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Look, twins!


Time for your shots little ones!

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I am not sure I would be all that excited to approach the new babies of some of these huge momma cows – a little tricky if momma gets protective!


It is the kind of thing you have to make a strategy for, I guess.


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And have an escape plan if you need it!
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By the way, the Veltkamp’s oldest daughter is the one featured here – she’s in my son’s class and is known for your hard work on the ranch.

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Even the dogs get in on the work, helping to move animals from one pen to the other.

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But sometimes it is really just Darin who finds what it takes to inspire new momma and her babe to head in the right direction.


After all the checking and feeding and vetting, there are still more chores to do.  Feed has to be stored properly where it can be used.  This bright yellow feed is a supplement that is quite costly, so it is managed with care!


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I do think it is the most beautiful saffron like color!


Producing cattle is a long held tradition here in the west, and I am so impressed that in just the one day when I took these photos I saw so much variety in what needs to get done.


Thank you Darin and the whole Veltkamp family – this was more fun than I could ever have imagined, and I learned a lot too!  Can’t wait to show the photos from the other days I was there – less focus on these little guys, more on the big bulls!



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