08 December, 2008 - 21:23
A rancher's bread and butter is the success of the calving season. We had a good year despite losing two full-term heifers for no obvious reasons. The number of bulls slightly outnumber the number of heifers. It is a real joy to visit our cattle herd and see all the little calves running, playing and getting a milk shake from their mom. We had one calf born whose legs were straight out and it could not walk. I figured we would have to put it down, but our wonderful vet gave it a few shots and we followed it up with more (vitamin b), hand held the calf under its mom to nurse, and gave it a lot of TLC in a barn stall. After a few days, she was up on swaying legs and in a few weeks she and mom were back with the herd.
We are now planning our next fall calf crop. Over Thanksgiving, when our boys were home, we separated the females into two groups. Having semen tested two herd bulls, we are now positioned to place a bull with each group around December 20. With any luck, we will have our first calf near the end of September 2009 and the last shortly after Thanksgiving.
Over the next months we will evaluate our young bulls to determine which will stay a bull and which will become a beef producing steer. The females will also be evaluated to see if they fit in the design box we have for breeding cattle. Our herd size is approaching the point where we will have to sell more and more cattle each year. We have only a given amount of grass. With rotation and planting both supplemental winter and summer forage, we can handle a pretty good size herd.
The tough economic times the country is facing has derailed our plans to sell our 2007 steers on the East Coast to be finished on grass there for that market. We look at this as an opportunity as it lets of take a second look at farm finished beef sold in our own market. You will probably hear more about that later in 2009.