Calves are being born! I was beginning to worry, because last year we moved our breeding season up a month in order to start the calves in January. For some reason this did not work and we are still having calves born in late February at the earliest. I won’t mind moving the schedule up a little more. One of the main reasons we did this is so that the bull won’t have to do his job in the middle of sweltering heat. This hurt us for last year’s crop.
The bull works, we know that. Dad had him up there before we brought him to Batson and calving started there last month. It is all about timing. A cow’s gestation is 283 days. Last year’s breeding season was from April to June. More than half of our cows are from the 2011 crop of heifers that we fed in the winter of 2011-2013. Those heifers were born in March, April, and May of 2011. The other cows are a mix of some younger cows, herd leaders, and older cows that we intend to cull, but haven’t been able to catch or load. It takes roughly 15 months for a heifer to be old enough to breed. So, by moving the breeding season up by a month, we are narrowing the window on the breeding season for the 2011 heifers. I understand that is probably confusing. I myself had to count months on my fingers several times just to write it. The upshot of it is that our older cows that were bred are having calves now. The younger crop of heifers were not mature enough at the beginning of the three months breeding season, so anything we get out of them will happen at the end of this calving season. This means there is systemic shift of three months. In other words, the calves that are born this year from the new heifers from 2011 will definitely miss the breeding season in 2014. The bottom line is that a heifer will be three years old before having a calf. The bright side is that first calf heifers will not be having calves in the coldest part of the winter, but in the milder Spring.
Right now, we have 10 calves down here in Batson. The good news is that 2 of these are from the 2011 crop of heifers. We have already exceeded the calf crop from last year and we will probably have more. I know of two cows that look pregnant right now. As the calving season goes on the 2011 heifers will be more likely to calve.
The next mission is to tag them when they are small. Too small and you could hurt them. Too big and they could hurt you. We have already managed to tag three of them and matched them up to their mothers. In recent years, we have been tagging them about the same time we are weaning them. That is way too big. Of course, to brand them, they have to be bigger than they are to tag them, but once again, they could stand to be a lot smaller than when we have been branding them. Some of the brands on the 2011 crop are awful looking because we waited so long that they had to be done in the chute. When that happens, they will lie down or move forward or backward so that you can’t reach the brand that you started. When you have them down on the ground and well and truly held, there is nothing that they can do.
All in all, the calving season is going better than last year. More calves and we are getting to the tagging part sooner. I will keep you posted.