Uncertainty has been added to my daily routine.
It comes with good news, though.
Apparently, the A Land of Grass genetics program is working.
For the past 10 years, my husband, Steve, and I worked hard to improve the maternal characteristics of our cow herd. I will continue to work on improvements, but I think we might have enough early fertility.
When I fed the cows the other day, I saw two hooves sticking out of the hind end of a heifer.
Calving season is supposed to start about March 20, not December 29.
The thermometer registered 15 below 0.
I was feeding hay with the skid steer because two tractors wouldn’t start. I had cussed the batteries in an effort to modify their behavior, but they had not responded appropriately.
As soon as I spotted the calving heifer, I turned the skid steer toward the barn and bunkhouse – I needed to arrange gates and grab a bridle for my horse so I could get the heifer to my version of the delivery room.
The skid steer high-centered on a snow drift. Oops.
I left it running while I ran to the bunkhouse.
I use the term “ran” loosely because I can only move so fast in my son’s old boots that are rated for 40 below. They keep my feet warm, but actual speed is illusionary.
Eventually, I propped the right gate open, warmed up the bridle, caught the horse – thank goodness for alfalfa treats in my coat pocket – and used the skid steer in the snow drift to climb on bareback.
The heifer looked at me twice and waddled toward the corral and the chute. She only veered off course a couple of times.
As I guided her to the corral, I tried to convince myself that the new mother and calf would be fine.
Two feet showing was a good sign. The calf was coming right. A friend from high school was visiting. She could help me pull the calf if I needed it.
I had straw at the barn so I could keep the calf warm while the heifer licked it dry. I could warm it more with a heat lamp or even the kitchen floor if I needed to and the sun was shining. The heifer was calm, not excited. She looked like she would mother the calf well.
My friend met me at the barn and we guided the heifer into the chute.
I reached in, felt the calf’s head coming the right way. I tugged on the calf’s feet. They didn’t budge. The calf was huge.
I hooked up the calf-puller. We winched the front feet and head out. Fluid ran from the calf’s mouth. He had drowned.
I turned the heifer back out to the herd and took a good look at the rest of the heifers in the pasture, calmly munching on hay.
About half will have babies within the next two weeks.
Last spring, we left the bulls with the cows too long.
That decision could get expensive. I am not set up for calving in January. I don’t have a heated barn or even a corral big enough to hold all of the heifers. It could be expensive enough to pay for a heated barn.
These heifers had been bred at 12 months old.
I thought of 11-year-old girls getting pregnant.
Some people blame hormones from beef for early development in American girls. Others point to chemicals – especially plastics – that surround us every day. Still more experts talk about obesity and body mass index.
After seeing those two feet at the rear end of a heifer, I disagree. Plastics and obesity are not good for us, but I think Americans are just good at genetic improvement.
Maybe, like Steve and me, a little too good.
Unlike most parents of teenage daughters, I have a simple solution. I’ll keep the bulls at bay until I’m good and ready for them.