Monday, March 12, 2012

Pregnant Cows

 Our cows are starting to get heavy, drop, or in generic terms are nearing their due dates. The official date we are supposed to start calving is March 25. But, we use low birthweight bulls, which means we use bulls that are known to sire calves that weigh less at birth (I'm talking calves that weight 70-80 pounds instead of 90+ pounds). The way you get lighter calves at birth is through a shorter gestation period, and yes we measure gestation periods in cattle, and select bulls on this trait. Just like people, some bulls will sire calves that are born sooner, and some will sire calves born later. Fewer days inside mama means less time to just grow, as babies are known to do in the last few days prior to birth. 
So, while March 25 is the "official" date based on when the bulls were turned in, we will start before then. This week we have been cleaning up the calving shed in preparation. We are also sorting our first calf heifers off from the three-year old cows they were wintered with on Wednesday because we only bring the heifers expecting their first calf into a smaller lot to watch. By the end of this week we will be ready for the first arrivals.
Other preparatory actions taken prior to calving include purchasing and writing on new ear tags for all the babies and making sure any vet supplies that may be needed for calf-related health issues are on hand (c-section needle, thread and necessary drugs, disinfectant, scour pills, boluses we use in case a cow doesn't clean, etc...). We also always have a couple large dog coats on hand for cold days and/or babies that aren't warming up very fast. I passed on leopard print for teal this year. We're thinking a zebra print would really cause issues with anyone driving by, and I'm on a mission to find one for next year! A few heat lamps are also stocked with new lightbulbs, and kept close at hand in the shed for cold weather days, and chilled calves.
Calf record keeping books are located and organized, ear taggers are checked and snow fence is strategically applied to the normal fence to block wind and provide additional protection.
When we get done with all that, hopefully we have a day or two to just wait. For now, the expectant mothers looks like this:

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