Tag Archives: first-calf heifers

Feeding in September



Though not short of feed in the flat below Terminus Dam, we keep plenty of alfalfa hay in front of our replacement heifers this time of year. The old feed is mostly filler without much strength and we want our yearling heifers to continue growing and be in shape to cycle when we turn the Wagyu bulls out three months from now. Protein licks and balanced minerals are also available.

In addition to the yearling heifers on the flat are some first-calf heifers bred last year to Wagyu bulls. Close enough to keep an eye on, all this special attention, (I’m afraid we spoil them), will help with the health of these coming first-calf mothers. It’s what we do before our rainy season begins, that time of year when it might rain.

This photo was taken Monday, September 16th as the clouds rolled in, confirmation of our second weather change of August, based on a thirty-day cycle.


weather cycles





I’ve lost touch, deaf
to the muses, immune
to the need to wrestle
words into a gravid line:

               heifer down
               with a dead calf
               too big to bear—


               to feed the coyotes
               and golden eagles.

Our fuzzy recollection of the sire
               through the wire
surrounded by a milling herd
of virgins for a day—

               thick-necked brute
               whose dreams came true
               how many times?

No romantic whispers
in the breeze, acorns
and oak leaves falling—

we feed hay,
look for trouble
and pray for none.




October 29, 2015

October 29, 2015


There is much to envy
cows content with fate,
grass at their feet, shade,

water, friends close—
no one preaches more
nor promises relief.

They’ve left irrigated
green for dry ground,
tall, brittle stems

fold beneath bellies
growing with calves
for the first time.

Under sycamores,
112° churns,
burns on a breeze

out of the south,
too hot to find
the open gates

to their new home
as mothers nursing
new life, new love,

devotion on the fight.
There is a place they go
if need be: head low,

blood in their eye,
red swirls in brown
pulsing towards crimson.

They will learn
to bellow and bawl,
shake and salivate

and come to the call
of others, like family,
within 45 days, well

before the vote
and victory dances
beyond this world.


REGAL (3030)



We know the ones up-close,
go looking when they’re missing
from the bunch lined-out on hay.

Most girls like their privacy,
find draws of rock and brush
that feel good, secure apart

from any other day. It changes
them, this first motherhood—
some find the carriage of a queen.






Early morning gather,
we occupy the foreground
close to corrals, the road,
a truck—short April grass.

Sort cows from calves—
weigh, wean and load
for fifty years since
they dammed the Kaweah

with another layer of man
we no longer notice
as we adapt like livestock
to the landscape.



The New First Calf


Checking on our first Wagyu X calf Tuesday morning, I could see from the gate a considerable flapping of black wings beneath the hillside oak tree where I left our new pair with a couple of flakes of hay the day before. My heart sank, then rose again as the calf seemed to come alive beneath a dozen Ravens hopping, vying for position over the lifeless black lump with an empty hole in its abdomen, the heifer standing off to one side.

The Ravens had either badgered the calf to death early that morning or late the evening before while the heifer was away getting a drink or it died while its new mother was off with the other heifers grazing socially. In either event, the new mothered suffered from what I have recently acronymed as IMI, insufficient maternal instincts.

Looking back, I had sensed it from the beginning. Beyond the monetary loss, the two-year investment to get a live calf on the ground, it’s always terribly sad and disappointing to lose a calf, but its part of the cow and calf business. The heifer passed the fertility test but failed as a mother, for whatever reasons. In our selection process for replacing older cows, we strive for genetics that can raise a calf and make a living on our native feed. She’ll go to town this spring when she is fat.

As part of the Age & Source verification process, we keep track of the birthdays of our first and last calves. Yesterday’s number 2 heifer (Tag # 2068 above) is now number 1, August 28, 2013.