As you may know, we began our first experience with cattle this past summer. After years of research, we had it all planned out. I bought 2 registered Lowline cow/calf pairs, and included in the price was the opportunity to breed back to a registered bull at my preferred time. Thanks to our research, we decided to allow the calves to nurse as long as the cows would let them, and see if the cows would wean naturally. Then, we had them bred in July and August so that 2014 calves would be born in the spring. This meant there was a better chance of survival (no snow or frigid temps to worry about), and if the yearling calves didn’t wean naturally, my barn paddock would be available to separate them out when the new calves were close to being delivered. We thought it was a beautiful plan.
Everything ran according to plan–sort of. You see, I have this problem with making assumptions. It’s a weakness that tends to get me into trouble quite frequently. Although I didn’t see our black Lowline, Holly, actually get bred, I assumed she had in the first week since the bull was close to her side for the first week he was here. I mean, hey, I did have better things to do around here than stand around to see bulls breed cows. First mistake. Then, thanks to a drought, we began haying early and the cows had free-choice hay access since late summer. It was no surprise that Holly gained weight so quickly. I assumed with her being the dominant boss cow and all, it made since that she would fatten up with all that hay. Second mistake.
Sean moved home in December and took over my chores. Literally, for almost a week, I didn’t set foot outside in the cold. It was WONDERFUL! No milking on frigid mornings, no ice to deal with, nothing. It was almost 2 more weeks before I finally decided it was time I go give everyone a good check up before the next winter storm moved in. I am so glad I did. That 3 weeks away gave me an outsider’s perspective. I got out to the cow pen, took one look at Holly, and said, “Oh.My.Stars! That is no “fat” belly!” That girl was so clearly VERY pregnant, it looked like she would pop any second. She reminded me of a ball walking around on stump legs. I immediately ran in and called the seller to ask “What on earth?!” Apparently, when I bought her, he had a suspicion an “oops” may have happened shortly after she calved last year, but hoped it hadn’t. Therefore, he didn’t say anything. Seeing as how that prize bull of his has so far had a 100% success rate at settling cows, looks like that oops was a big one!
So the bad news is that Holly is due to calve anytime between now and the end of February. By the looks of her, it will be sooner than later. So much for our plan of a spring calf. Seeing as how we have below zero temperatures and 8 inches of snow on the ground right now, I have to keep a close eye on her. The good news, however, is that the particular bull who took advantage of her is a very valuable Lowline bull, whose heifer calves never sell for less than $3500! Sight, unseen, the seller (a big whig with the Lowline organization) has already suggested a trade for 3 steer calves if it’s a heifer. I’ll have to figure out what to do (as much as I like the seller, I have a feeling he will come out waaaay ahead on that deal!). Even if it’s a bull calf, he wants to take a look at it for possible trade. The other possible good news is that, if I can get Holly to let me milk her, she could potentially get us through our dry spell we are expecting in the spring, when the goats dry up in preparation for kidding, and until Abbigail, the jersey cow, delivers. That would be a tremendous blessing to not have 6 weeks of no milk!
In the mean time, Abbigail is having to unexpectedly share her stall space with Holly’s 10 month old calf for weaning. No one is too thrilled about that. Except Holly, who seems somewhat relieved to have him no longer begging for more milk.