Saturday, February 13, 2016

Unplanned Pregnancies

We weren’t expecting any calves this soon, but there are three on the ground right now. We think the neighbor’s bull went on a walk-about.

There’s a herd of elk marauding the neighborhood. They spent one night in our stackyard munching on third-crop alfalfa bales. Then they went out in the pasture and dug holes in the snow, eating our stockpiled feed we were saving ‘til spring. They drug the electric fencing wires hither and yon. Apparently they've moved on because we haven't seen them for a few days.   

I walked home after chores through our backgrounding feedlot this morning. There is a wide alley between pens to allow hay to be delivered to opposing feed bunks. The calves look happy. Jesse is doing a good job of tending them. He feeds them twice a day and delivers large straw bales into the pens every few days so they have a clean, dry place to lie down. It’s a pleasant, congenial spot to spend a cold winter day.  

The cow herd is divided into two herds this time of year. One for the older cows and one for the younger cows that are expecting their first or second calf. We can take our best hay to the young cows and not expect them to compete with the old gals for feed.  

There’s one baby in the young cows, the heifers. She was born to a “second-calver,” which is a good thing because heifers are so excited about the newcomer they can overwhelm a neophyte mother. They crowd around, sniffing the baby, and can interfere with the bonding so critical to the calf’s health. This mother, wise from doing it once before, knew to keep her newborn away from the herd, under wraps for a bit. She was keeping a tight rein on her baby, bunting away an interloper as we watched. Once a few calves arrive the herd becomes accustomed to the process and it's not a problem. 

Early or not, we’ll take every healthy calf we get. We have a bit of experience in unplanned pregnancies ourselves. Sometimes surprises produce the best outcomes!   

Mom is wary but standing guard

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