Monday, February 17, 2014

Calving Season

It is calving season for us.  It was my goal this year to shorten our calving season to less than 45 days.  So far, in the first 11 days, we have had 1/3 of the cows to calve.  I'd say we are on track to possibly be as short as 30 days.

For those of you not familiar with ranching, length of calving season is important.  The more uniform the calves are when you go to sell them, the higher the price received and the greater the average weight.  It's all about the distribution curve on the weight.  A 30 day season is a very tight distribution whereas a 90 day or longer season is not.  Play with the numbers, do the math, it works.

I am very pleased.  So far it looks like we are having cloned calves.  They all look alike.  Below is one of them -- and if you've seen one, you've seen them all....

The only question is heifer or bull calf?

So far we are about 50:50.  Imagine that......

There is nothing better than to see the babies out playing in the pasture. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Instinct to Hide

Cows are "prey" animals.  They evolved in the grasslands and were subject to predation by lions or wolves or other large predators.  In spite of our efforts to domesticate them, they retain the basic instincts of prey animals.

Recently I posted a photo on Facebook of a newborn baby calf that was lying curled up on the edge of a creek.  I included the caption, "Pretend you can't see me.  Momma says I can't move."  That photo is below.

There was some concern expressed that something was wrong with the baby.  Why would a mother hide her baby and then wander off and leave it?  It is because she is protecting it.

Below is another example of a hidden baby.  I spotted it from across the pasture and zoomed in at the highest magnification I could with my Nikon 55-300 mm lense.  Can you see him lying in the fence line?  His mother is about 400 yards away grazing -- pretending to ignore him.

I wasn't certain that it was a baby but was pretty sure, so I drove a little closer.

Again, I am zoomed in at highest magnification.  Now it is clear that it is a calf lying next to the fence.  Each of the photos below is just a little bit closer.

The photo below shows that the "hiding" instinct begins even before the calf is born.  Below, you will see a newborn, still wet from birth, lying just at his mother's feet.  She had the calf in the brush to minimize the exposure to potential predators -- such as the black vultures in the tree above her.

The photo below is of the black vultures.  They will clean up the afterbirth, but if given the chance, they will also attack the calf.  Turkey vultures aren't usually a problem because there generally are only one or two birds at a time.  I have seen flocks of the Mexican Black Vultures that had over 30 birds.  They are extremely aggressive and will attack even as the cow is giving birth.  It is important that she be in a place where she is protected from them.

Sometimes it is almost comical how a cow will hide her calf.  Below, you will see one that is hiding behind a stick.  You would be surprised though, how easy it is to miss the calf at a casual glance -- especially if you are used to seeing an object there -- the stick.

Aren't God's creatures amazing?!