Tag Archives: predators




Newborn calves are vulnerable to a variety of predators, so cows instinctively consume the afterbirth after cleaning up the calf as it struggles to stand and nurse. After resting briefly, the calf above (middle) is finding its wobbly legs to nurse again as its concerned mother (2110) looks on. This second-calf mother finds little privacy near our irrigated pasture, as two other curious calves become part of the drama in the Valley Oak shade.

We are extremely pleased with so many early calves on the ground after two dry years of little feed. Calving forty days now, about 60% of our younger cows and 50% of our older cows have calves at their sides. The calves seem bigger and healthier this year that we attribute to all the loads of hay, fed last August through April, while the cows raised last year’s calf. Additionally, when we weaned those calves last May, we sent the marginal and late calving cows to town, reducing our cowherd substantially. In this respect, our cowherd as a whole has benefitted from the drought. Whether or not we can make the reduced numbers work economically remains to be seen, dependent mostly on the weather and our coming grass year.

Clouds and a slight chance of rain are predicted for the middle of next week, but probably not enough to start the grass. Our own thirty-day forecast indicates that we have a fair chance of rain on the 19th and a better chance of rain on the 28th.

Meanwhile, we’re still feeding somewhere everyday, trying to keep the cows in shape to raise their calves and cycle when we put the bulls out in December, hopefully on some green grass that we can’t quite imagine anymore.


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.