Monday, August 15, 2011

Spray day revisted

While Nathan was spraying the other day, I noticed one cow had not come in with the others. Since the neem spray we use acts more as a repellant than a kill-on-contact spray, it is important to spray the entire herd and here is why:


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This poor Charolais cow (shar-lei) had attracted every fly from the entire herd because she did not smell of peanutty, garlicky neem. If we did not dose her up as well, she would have been utterly miserable carrying such a heavy parasite load. As I walked her to the corral area, I noticed exactly why she had not come in willingly with the rest of the group: peeking out from behind the sagebrush was a week-old calf also plagued by the flies.

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We gave both of them a good spraying, much to their immediate relief. Then we tackled the mystery of why we have a week old calf on the ground in August when calving season is in February. All the cows have already calved and I know exactly which girlies were dry this year and produced no calves. The new mother, #78, is one of our yearling heifers born on 03/20/2010 to Dusky. Here she is at branding 2010:

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We put the bull in with that group of heifers in May to produce February calves (cattle have a gestation period of 283 days or about 9 months, much like humans). For a calf to be born now, the heifer must have bred in October at seven months before being weaned off her mother. Talk about teenage pregnancy!

It is rare for a such a thing to occur but I have read of a few instances in Lorene's old cow book. Most of them don't turn out very well; the heifer is bred at such a young age, she just doesn't have a big enough frame to deliver a full-size calf. As I have mentioned before, we use a special "heifer bull" (Archie) for our first calf heifers because it is in his genetics to throw smaller, easier to deliver calves. However, at the time of her breeding she was on pasture with both bulls and it was by sheer coincidence that Archie bred her instead of Jugghead (who throws calves so big it would have surely killed the poor heifer).

Most pro cattlemen only leave the bulls in for 6-8 weeks to cover the brood herd then the bulls are separated. This makes for a nice tight window where all the calves drop at the same time so they are all the same size and age when shipped to market. If the bull is in for only 8 weeks and a cow comes up dry later in the season, she is shipped off.

We take a more laid back approach and leave the bulls in from May through November (weaning time) though 95% of the cows breed in May and June to drop calves in February and March. The philosophy for such an arrangement is that if a cow calves later or off schedule, at least we still have a calf to sell without sacrificing a perfectly healthy brood cow that didn't happen to make her date with the bull at the proper time.

Nevertheless, we still don't want a repeat (no matter how rare) of #78's teenage pregnancy, so we ended up sorting the bulls away from the brood herd. They are now happily grazing the front lawn with the beef steers and it is just another day at the ranch where you never know what you are going to find when you head out to work on the next project.

1 comment:

Jarm said...

With that many flies, you almost think that cow is a different color!

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