iPhone photo: Terri Drewry
Calving since the 1st of September, we’re always pleased, and relieved, to see our first-calf heifers forming nurseries rather than hiding their calves singly as easier prey to coyotes. I find the babysitter selection process interesting. Oftentimes it seems that the cow with the youngest calf gets the duty because her calf needs the most attention, so while she’s at it, she just as well take care of the other calves at the same time while the other mothers graze. Yesterday, while feeding the heifers with Wagyu X calves, 1038 was under a sycamore tree with a few calves while the others were lined-out on the alfalfa. For whatever reason, she was off her feed and subsequently got the call. Sympathetically, her calf is licking her head.
Since she was a calf in 2012, I’ve had high hopes for the all-red cow (2092), now babysitting our first Vintage Angus calves on the irrigated pasture. A spitting image of her mother, she is demonstrating the same strong, maternal traits as her mother.
Separated from her first calf, a Wagyu X in 2010, by a series of events I can only imagine that had to include a high-speed ATV chase when she strayed onto the neighbors to be run through two barbed wire fences, 440 was finally reunited with her calf after we picked her up at another neighbor’s corrals at the behest of the brand inspector ten days later.
Drying up, she had obviously had a calf, but local details were skimpy. All we could do was bring her home and put her back into the same hillside pasture she had come from, hoping the two might get back together, though we hadn’t seen her calf. We were fairly certain that if she found it alive, the best she could offer was companionship. Three days later, I saw the two together, and unbelievably, she had come back into her milk. 440 is a legend on this ranch, epitomizing the strong hormones and maternal instincts we choose to develop instead of just beefy carcasses. After all, we’re in the business of raising cows that can raise a baby.
I’ve already checked, her week-old, red calf in the grass is a bull. But we’re hoping for at least 20 replacement heifers from last year’s Vintage bulls and this bunch of second-calf heifers.
Small for easy calving, these Wagyu-cross calves are a week or less old and come in interesting colors. All of our heifers have Angus breeding, though some may have Hereford sires and show the red. The Wagyu influence is mostly black, but can bring shades of gray, brown and red from of our black white-face and Hereford-looking heifers. I am relieved to see them setting-up nurseries and babysitting, adding some stability to their maternity wards.
Blond on Black
We have about 20 x-bred Wagyu calves on the ground, most born in the past week. For whatever reasons, the first calf born on the 5th didn’t make it, a bit of a premie perhaps, or a single mom with no maternal group support, or perhaps it succumbed to the coyotes that have been skulking every fresh birthing place. Showing their nervousness, some of the heifers have chosen the canyons and draws away from the bunch to have their calves, and are fairly easy to read when a coyote’s nearby, oftentimes standing over their calf asleep between their legs. For 1st calf heifers, their instincts are admirable and amazing. I just can’t imagine a better mother than a cow.