Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In the Pasture - Sometimes I amaze my self ...

... with my stupidity! WHAT WAS I THINKING? I know better than to calve in January. I teach about this, write about this, talk about this, ad nauseum. But, when I couldn't find a bull at the appropriate time (mid July - early August), did I wait? Did I say "It would be better for the cow, the budget, and me if we skipped a year."? NO! I jumped at the chance to cross May ( our wee Dexter cow) with a young, still fairly light, Angus Bull before he got shipped out. So, now I get to deal with the consequences of my stupidity. (You read about the calves arrival. Our "heroic" effort to save her after she was born in 6 inches of freezing muck on a 20 degree morning.) Now, you get "The Rest of the Story." But first, Jane (that's her name. NOT my choice, but I've given up the naming rights to all critters born here. Her mom is May, because she was born in May and arrived at our farm in May. Logical, I suppose. So her daughter should be Jan, right? Wrong. Jan didn't stick. Jane did. The other suggestion was Robot, which had my second vote after "Stinking-stupid-baby-cow", which I was told wouldn't work because she wouldn't be a baby for long and then we'd get confused with her mother, "stinking-stupid-cow".) is doing just fine. She had her first day out in the pasture. It lasted 15 minutes. When the goats came thundering out it spooked her, she bolted, hit the electric fence and popped right through. May followed without a pause. I got them turned back toward the barn without having a heart attack, and they have been there since. Here she is with May, enjoying some sun in the barn.

video

Now on to the rest of the story. My stupidity.

In the wild, in my part of the world ruminant animals give birth in June (some in late May, and some possibly creeping into early July.) Further north they give birth closer to the middle of June. Even further North and they ALL give birth within a three week window around the summer solstice. Why? That's when they are most likely to survive. Did they have a meeting and plan this out? Was there a program put out by the Governing Council of Ruminant Creatures helping them plan their pregnancies? NO. The "non-conformists" were systematically eliminated. Harsh? Maybe. But that's how nature works. For hundreds of thousands of years the deer, elk, moose, etc. that cycled in a way that ensured their giving birth within that window survived, and their young survived. They stayed represented in the gene pool. The rest didn't. Now the "rut" can be marked on your calendar. It happens at the same time every year, and the young are born at the same time every year. Why? Because that's when there is the most food available. That's when the mother will be able to eat the extra amounts she needs to ensure that the baby has all the milk it needs to thrive. When we plan our breeding season so that we are calving, lambing, kidding, on grass in late May, June, and early July we give our animals the same advantage. A ruminant will eat 4.5 - 5 % 0f it's body weight every day when it is beginning to lactate. That's a lot of hay to have to feed. They will continue at 4 - 4.5 for the entire lactation period. The more of this they can harvest themselves, the better for you, the farmer. That's where I got stupid. If I wanted milk through the winter I should have had a fall calf. Yes there is some extra hay cost, but not nearly the stress of a mid-winter calf. STUPID. Hope you learn from my mistake.

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