When Heifers Come Home
I took some heifers to rented pasture in April.
The grass was high and the water flowed clear when I dropped them off just across the railroad tracks from town.
Just as in past years, they thrived all summer.
I added a bull to the mix in the middle of June, hoping calves would arrive next March and April.
This bull is young, and I bought him from a different breeder.
When I unloaded him from the trailer, he trotted around the fenceline. Finding an escape route was the only thing on his mind. Over and over, he faced down my horse, not sure what that long-legged, gray beast expected, but he knew bulls don’t meet anyone else’s expectations. They meet their own expectations.
He ducked and dodged my horse until finally he spotted the heifers at the other end of the field.
He splashed through the creek in his excitement to investigate.
Yet I never saw him actually work.
Not once, all summer long.
I began to wake up at night, making back-up plans for my heifers, cussing the bull, wondering whether I should bring a second bull to the pasture just in case. I have invested a lot in raising these heifers. I gamble that they will pay me back over the next six or seven years with healthy calves. If the bull didn’t do his one-and-only job, the heifers would never have the opportunity to pay back that investment.
But I would have to pull a second bull from my cow herd and I needed him to do his one-and-only job with the cows.
So I crossed my fingers.
After all, that’s always an effective management strategy.
A few days ago, I received a nighttime call from the sheriff’s office that one of the heifers was on the road.
I was awake anyway, worrying about whether the heifers were bred or not, wondering whether I should invest in Unisom.
By the time I got to town, she was back in the pasture. Teenaged heifers won’t leave their gang for long.
Another effective management strategy is to bring the heifers home if they crawl through the fence at night.
Or haul them directly to the auction if they aren’t pregnant.
My brother, Roger, could drive one truck and trailer while I drove another one.
We could stop by the vet clinic with each load.
Roger and I stepped into the pasture.
The heifers raised their heads, turned and dashed to the fence. Then they circled in, stepping within arm’s reach, to investigate.
The bull raised his nose and curled his lip back Heifer 56’s tail.
That was a bad sign.
I wondered how I could sort the open heifers at the vet clinic, or if I would even need to sort open heifers. Maybe they were all open.
The bull loaded with the first trailer of heifers. He tried to mount a heifer inside the trailer.
Another bad sign.
I wondered if I needed to fuel the truck before making the trip to the auction.
One by one, the vet preg checked each heifer.
Roger and I were bringing the heifers up the alley outside so I couldn’t see the ultrasound machine inside, but I could hear Dr. Dick.
One by one, “Good.”
One by one, I began to relax.
After the last heifer passed through the chute, Dr. Dick stuck his head out the door and said “You’re going to be busy next April, really busy for a while, but it won’t last long.”
Apparently, the bull is shy, but performed perfectly.
He must stay awake at night, too.