Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Calving Season is Almost Upon Us

My husband is a planner.  And everything must go according to plan.  If not I deal with a grumpy husband.  For as often as his plans change unexpectedly, you would think he might have learned to be more flexible.  Not so much.  Sigh.  I however, have learned to deal with the grumpies.  Most days.

In December of 2001 we were asked if we would like to buy an older friend's last 8 cows and their calves.  They were registered Red Angus, big beautiful cows.  Their calves Red Angus-Hereford cross.  The calves were currently in a feedlot and had been since they were weaned.  We chose to buy the 8 cows and heifer calves.  We planned to raise the calves to add to our herd.  We were told the cows were due to calve at the end of February. 

Everything was going swimmingly until the end of January.  The cows were still on cornstalks 9 miles from the farm.  A nasty storm was coming and we went down to hay the girls.  And there it was, one wet and almost frozen, ginormous calf.  This was definitely NOT part of the plan.  We weren't ready.  We didn't have the cows at the farm with the barns.  We didn't have colostrum.  And we weren't sure what to do.  We knew it was too cold for that wet baby and we'd have to take him with us.  Momma thought our plan was terrible and let us know that it was NOT OK with her.  We decided it was safer in the pickup, so he drove up next to the calf, opened the door over his head, grabbed his poor frozen ears and pulled.  He came flying into my lap.  I wrapped the big calf in towels in my lap.  (I later learned that he was 128 pounds, that was more than I weighed!) As soon as I melted the ice from his tail he proceeded to pee all over my lap.  At least that was still warm....  We have great neighbors that brought us colostrum to feed him with and we checked the cows every hour after that for more calves and moved all the girls home the next morning.  I got to spend the whole night hearing about how this was not the plan.  I told him we had a new plan.  Sometimes talking to him doesn't help.

Fast forward a year or so.  It was time to pelvic measure our heifers we bought to see if we wanted to keep them.  There were 2 that were on the very porky side.  Jas blamed that on them being part Hereford.  I had other ideas, but kept them to myself.  Heifer #1 measures beautifully.  Heifer #2 a wee bit smaller than we'd like, but will work.  Heifer #3 is BRED and should calve in a month.  Heifer #4 good sized pelvis.  Heifer #5 BRED.  Apparently they were NOT in a feedlot with other heifers and STEERS.  Once again, this was not the plan.  I wish I had a picture of the look on his face to this day as the vet announced bred.

In the 10 years since then our herd has changed quite a bit.  We have gone from 8 all Red Angus and Red Angus-Hereford cross to 25 Black Angus-Gelbvieh cross.  There is one exception, Daisy.  She is a Red mostly Gelbvieh.  Sky used to say that was my cow, because she was different.  Briez has claimed Daisy as her own.  She was a bit ticked that we wouldn't load her up and take her to the National Western Stock Show so she could show her.  Our cows are bred to calve the last week or so of March now.  They are still out on corn stalks and we plan to bring them home at the very end of this month.  Assuming all goes as planned and Jas gets the corral rebuilt. 

Yep, that's right.  He tore out the entire corral just before calving.  It will be bigger and better when he rebuilds and he has spent every spare minute that he is not chopping ice, feeding hay, doing other chores, driving his truck, and being a Dad on cutting the pipe to size.  But seriously?  What if the plan changes???  I hope he gets a bit of luck soon. 

The other night I knew something was bothering him, so I asked what was up.  He had been to check the girls and noticed one of our 2nd or 3rd calf heifers had a bulging red bag starting to stick out her rear.  NOT GOOD.  Obviously, it is way too early.  And they are not at home in the, ahem, corral.  She showed no other signs of eminent labor, but the bag was enough to know she had a problem.  Jas has a tendency to blame himself for any and all problems.  He was worried that maybe there was too much nitrate in the corn stalks, or he had missed something.  I told him there was probably something wrong with that calf.  Sure enough, he found the dead calf yesterday afternoon.  He said it was probably in the 45 pound range, fully formed toes, spine, and tail but the head "wasn't formed right yet."  He said it had very little bone structure and no eyes...  It is soo sad at our house when we lose a calf.  We will keep the cow another year, but if this happens to her or her 3 sisters we purchased again they will go as a set.

That's enough rambling for the day.  Stay warm!  A balmy -45 with windchill here....

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