After about a dozen years of breeding our heifers to Wagyu bulls for Snake River Farms, we have noticed a distinct difference in their behavior as compared to our English calves, predominantly Angus with some Hereford heterosis. The Wagyu cross is more active. They find their legs earlier, within a week or less running and playing together, and within two weeks or so, chasing one another in gangs.
Essentially in our front yard, we have the luxury of watching them in the pasture racing ahead of their mothers in the morning to the water trough, and then in bunches, circling at full speed as their mothers drink—and again in the evenings before their mothers move up the hill to graze. Never the same antics twice, it’s good entertainment with coffee or a cocktail.
With a smaller calf, we opted for the Wagyu bulls so that we could breed our yearling heifers on time. Holding our replacement heifers until they were two before we bred them was almost impossible—always an English bull around looking for more work at a time that their larger calves, if they could have them, would come at the wrong time of year for our country—those heifers out-of-sync with our breeding program.
The Wagyu X calves also seem more secure in bunches, forming large nurseries while their mothers are away. After 2 weeks of bonding in a canyon away from the main bunch, the mother of the twins brought them in on Monday, a feed day, pictured in Friday’s post with 22 other calves using alfalfa for soft bedding until the cows returned to clean-up all the hay.
Another trait that makes it difficult at times to pair a calf with its mother is that the Wagyu X calves are persistent when it comes to stealing milk. Sometimes they wait until a heifer is nursing its own calf, then sneak in, often from behind, to help out. Other times they will badger a heifer until she finally gives up. This usually takes place when the calves get older with bigger appetites.
Even so, maturing from heifers to cows, we are continually amazed and proud of the maternal instincts we see in our first-calf heifers—making our job so much easier.