Thursday, April 7, 2016

Spring is... Calving Season

Spring is a busy time here on the farm. We are preparing the ground to be planted to corn, sorghum and cotton by strip-tilling and applying fertilizer. We are pre-watering for those crops. We are spraying our wheat for weeds and giving the irrigated wheat a good drink. We'll start planting soon for corn, cotton and sorghum.

While I love planting since it is the beginning of a new crop, the best part of spring is calving season! The heifers (first-time moms) started calving at the end of February, and the older cows started in March. The majority of the cows have now calved, and the calves are growing rapidly. They are loving the warm weather and the green grass. Between wheat harvest and calving season, I can't decide which is my favorite time of the year. I think the calves are winning this year. We have some absolutely adorable babies this year!

We keep our cows separated into different groups based on how old they are and who the owner is. We divide by age because each age group needs different care. We have three age groups:

  1. heifers 
  2. young cows (2nd calf mommas) 
  3. old cows (3rd calf mommas or older) 
Since we are a family operation, we have three different sets of owners for our cattle:

  1. Royce and I = blue ear tags
  2. Royce's Dad and Mom = white ear tags
  3. Granny and Granddad = red ear tags
Since Royce and I only have a few cows, Terry, Royce's dad, is nice enough to let us run ours with his young cows, while Terry and Granddad usually keep their young cows and old cows separated.

The heifers live at the farm while they calve. By having them at the farm, we can keep a better eye on them in case of any difficulty they have calving. In fact, we check them multiple times daily and nightly. Royce and I took the night shifts this spring, checking at 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and midnight. Granddad checks them twice during the wee hours of the morning, and then whoever is around on the farm for the day checks throughout the day. Once the calves get to be two or three weeks old, we turn them and their moms out in the pasture across from the farm. Here, we are able to see them daily and also provide extra feed. Since the heifers aren't fully grown when they give birth the first time, they need some special TLC.

The young cows are in two separate pastures at the ranch. By having them separate from the old cows, we keep better tabs on how they are doing. Since they are 2nd time moms, they've pretty well got things figured out, but they still do need a little more attention than the old cows. If I'm being honest, the young cows are my favorite group of cows. They are friendlier than the old cows, and not as needy as the heifers. Plus we have some fun colors in the young cow herds.

The old cows are cows that have been there and done that. They've had calves, know what to do, how to act, and how to take care of themselves. They are pretty low maintenance. Granddad visits them and the young cows every other day during the week to feed them cake and make sure all is well. It usually is.

Since I have some personal stake in the young cow group (and the heifers, but we see them all the time), I've been taking some time to visit the ranch when I can to see my calves. Let me tell you: I'm definitely a proud calf mom! Our girls have done well so far, and hopefully the last couple to calve will keep up the good work. I took my camera with me the other evening and captured some photos. Enjoy!

This is Smoky Cow. She belongs to Royce and I and is one of ours who has yet to calve. She was not thrilled that I didn't take any cake with me.

See that blue ear tag? That's my color! And Royce's too!

This adorable little dude belongs to me and Royce. I just can't get enough of his black mask, aka "mottled face."

Isn't this little bull calf cute?? I love his white markings. He belongs to Terry.

One thing I absolutely love about the baldies (Angus x Hereford) is most of them have little white tips at the end of the tails!

Do you have any questions about how we take care of our calves and their moms? I'd love to answer them!

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