Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cows of Note: Young Mother

There are certain cows in our herd that stand out for one reason or another. These are my cows-of-note. Some are noticed for their good looks, some for their outstanding calves, and some for their athleticism. Others are cows-of-note for bad reasons, like the suspicion they had one of the small calves. You do not want to be on the bad list, especially if there isn't a lot of grass one year.
I can remember these cows, and their stories, for some reason. I am forever rattling these little facts off as I see them, and sometimes exasperating my family in the process.
So, since you're already here, I'm going to tell you about them from time to time. I managed to get pictures of several of on my last trip home.

Up first is this cow. She is not here for her beauty, brains, or calm attitude as she gets a little nervous in tight spaces. She is a cow-of-note because she had a calf as a yearling. We manage our cattle to have their first calf when they're two years old, so she was a young mother in cow years.
This isn't something we aim for, but it still happens occasionally. Fertility is always a big issue in ranching, as it's directly linked to our profitability each year. We practice a very strict culling practice on cows that don't breed back. The result of this, and several other fertility related practices, have resulted in us having to be careful our heifer calves aren't bred while they're still on the cow.
This is more common in our Gelbvieh influenced calves, which we believe this cow has. But despite our efforts, we occasionally have heifer calves still on the cow unknowingly get bred.
For several years (during a drought) we sent all our calves to a feedlot, including our replacement heifers. One January morning we received a call from our feeder, Dave, saying one of our heifers had just calved.
That heifer is the pictured cow.
Now, in reference to her nervous disposition - if you had calved in a feedlot in South Dakota as a yearling, and been under the care and management of a South Dakota farmer, it's unlikely you would come out without a few emotional scars too.
But despite his belief that if cattle aren't running when you're working them it's going too slow, Dave is a great feeder, and he felt bad for the little calf born in the dead of South Dakota winter. Dave is also a true feeder, he's into feeding cattle, and he wants them to be in good shape. So he bottle fed the calf twice a day in addition to the milk he received from his mother. He also slipped this cow a little extra feed.
This is a great example of the efforts people in agriculture will go to in caring for animals. The calf would have survived without the additional care, but Dave cared about his welfare, and gave him extra attention and time, despite him being a wild little guy.
In addition to Dave's attentions, this cow also loved her calf, which doesn't always happen with yearlings.
Upon arriving back in Wyoming the following spring, mother and child were turned out with the rest of the yearling heifers. This cow raised her calf as a yearling, and bred back. Whenever we would check our yearling heifers, she would be paired up with him.

So, while not a gorgeous cow, especially in this picture, she is a "fertile mertel," and a really good mother, and one that I can pick out at a glance.

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