After Mike takes care of the calves this morning, he plans to call the guy we bought them from to deliver more babies. I don’t think we will get all of them today, but at some point an additional thirteen are expected. It is also nearing time to sell our first few older calves. Frick and Frack are probably 700 lbs. now and have such beautiful markings. Hopefully, they will sell as breeding stock for someone with Jerseys. Although I know little to nothing about what prompts a farmer to decide which bull to breed with his cows, their personalities are such the farmer will have a good choice. Frick is docile, nurturing to the smaller calves, and curious. Frack…well…Frack tries to mount anything! Some of that is the domination game the cattle play and some of it is being a “teenaged” bull.
Frack has another known advantage. He is anatomically built okay for the job. Apparently, some bulls have difficulties due to organ size, shape, or other adversities. That’s as polite as I can say that. I found the information when surfing to find out how one acquires fluid for insemination of a cow. I have to admit a little squeamishness over the whole subject, but if you are interested, search bull breeding. When the ones we plan to breed come of age, the task will be performed naturally.
I think we will take a little loss by selling Frick and Frack for breeding rather than beef stock. Meat prices are up at the moment, afterall, and if the one Jersey breeding bull I saw listed on craigslist is any indication, price per pound is less than the going meat rate. That bull, however, was dehorned. Frick and Frack are not and we plan to sell them as is. Young as they are, their horns are still short, so if that is important to the new buyer he’ll have to handle it. We also don’t know positively their fertility, but if Frack’s libido is any indication, they will be excellent with a herd of females in heat.
Do they call it ‘heat’ with cows?
Big Mama has also reached the size to move on. I will seriously hate to see her go because she has been the protector of the herd and I think she is good ‘mama’ material. She is a beautiful polled black Angus, but being the eldest of the herd is quickly approaching breedable age.
A cow’s gestation period is the same as a human’s, about nine months. I suspect Big Mama will be of a year old by November, the perfect age for impregnation, but since most farmers prefer their cows to calf in the spring, she needs to stay a heifer until about next June. Big Mama was not purchased with that in mind, at least, not here. At the present time we do not have the facilities to hold her over the winter. We will build facilities for the cattle we planned to breed, Sam and Diane (the Charolais), a pair of same-size black Angus calves, and two Guernsey pairs (Spot, Sexy Six and two others), but Big Mama was not in those plans. I wish we could keep her. I also wish we had a female Holstein to breed with Hal and would love to keep some of the Jerseys to breed too. We simply cannot keep the whole herd to breed ourselves, though. We need some income from these animals!
So everyone has been telling me I shouldn’t name the calves because it is harder emotionally to let them go. Maybe they are right. I also know me, and it will be hard regardless of whether they have a name or a number. I also think that if having an emotional attachment and then letting go in order for the cycle of life to continue is so hard that we shouldn’t name a calf, maybe we shouldn’t name our children either. I mean, it is rather like when your children become young adults. You’ve spent your life working yourself out of a job and looking forward to seeing the fruits of your labors, but at some point, high school graduation, going off to college, marriage, or whatever it strikes you that they won’t be around much any more. It hurts, but it is also a fulfilling joy in the process. We would never dream not to name our precious baby; I don’t see why naming a calf that will be sold is that much different. We know from the beginning there will be a day they will move on and we are only their caretakers until then. Such is the cycle of life.
Naming the cattle is easier for recognition, too. If I say to Mike, “Big Mama is in the shed,” for example, he knows precisely which animal I refer to. If I was to say, “Number 102 is in the shed,” he would have to figure out whether 102 is an Angus or another breed, a male or a female, one with or without horn-buds, etc. for identification. It would be almost like telling someone to go out into the garden and pick “some #5 vegetables” without specifying zucchini or potatoes. So far as I have been able to tell, vegetables have no individual personalities so there is no need to say, “Go pick Bob the cauliflower, and George the lima bean,” but calves, like children and household pets do have personalities. Frick is a gentle, docile little bull. Spot is curious and loving. Big Mama is motherly. Sam is brotherly. Each is a joy to treasure while we have them.
Another reason I like to name the calves is they respond to their own names and do so quickly. The first time I name a calf, looking straight at him or her, it seems to click that when that particular sound comes out of my mouth, I am talking to that particular individual. They learn their names faster than a dog. If a day or a few days go by, it does not change their recognition of that name. Like cats, they come when called only if they feel like it, but when called they always respond to their own name by stopping whatever they are doing and looking towards me. In the gathering at the trough, for example, I can say a name and that one calf, and only that calf, will stop eating and look at me, then either continue eating or walk towards me. Cattle are smart, so if they are even moderately intelligent, why shouldn’t they be named?
So, contrary to popular opinion, I advocate naming the animals in a small herd. We shall find out whether I am correct in doing so within the next month or two. Meanwhile, I will maintain calling them by their names and remain in denial as to their futures. Guess that makes me a good ‘parent’.
On a side note, check out this Chicago blogger’s opinion about Kentucky. The evidence is mounting…VACATION IN THE BLUEGRASS!!