Close to the house, we’ve been checking the first-calf heifers daily as they get closer to calving. Typically, we don’t have much trouble because the Wagyu X come small, but there is always some drama, especially with the very first calves.
Some followers might recall last year’s first Wagyu X calf that arrived two weeks early that we eventually lost because its mother spent more time with the other heifers rather than with its calf, her social needs greater than her maternal traits. We keep the heifers in two separate pastures where each herd develops its own social dynamics. The transition from ‘one of the girls’ to motherhood varies from heifer to heifer, and occasionally, when no one else has a calf, the comfort of the herd becomes a priority.
In particular this past week, we have been watching four heifers that are extremely close. Early yesterday morning, number one arrived to 3024. She had placed the calf in a barbed wire corner, and we found them with her on one side of the fence and the calf on the other, an open gate between nearby. The heifer had obviously been sucked and the calf was healthy as we watched the heifer navigate the gate to her calf. All seemed well.
Our presence brought a dozen heifers, thinking hay, off the hill. They all drank at the trough and filed through the gate towards the feed grounds to join the others, our new mother trailing behind them, leaving her calf alone. Concerned, we followed at a distance around the hill only to see she had turned around and was coming back. Good, so we got out of the way of nature.
An hour later while checking the first-calf heifers on the other side of the road, I noticed she had returned to join the bunch. Mid-afternoon, Robbin saw her returning towards her calf. An hour or so before dark, I thought I ought to check on the new pair. I could see the calf at a distance in the same barbed wire corner, but no mother around. Assuming she had abandoned her calf for the comfort of the bunch again, I looked for her there and checked the other heifers at the same time. She was not among them. So I returned to the area of the calf, making a big circle, only to spot the mother grazing in the Blue Oaks about 100 yards above the calf.
By the time I had gotten back to the house, the main bunch was leisurely following in the direction by which I had left, towards the calf and the eventual crowd around it—not exactly what I wanted. Though the instinctual transition from ‘one of the girls’ to motherhood can be awe-inspiring, oftentimes our presence as midwives detracts from the process and can interfere with the necessary bonding time between mother and baby, a fine line to walk.
Today is a normal feed day, an opportunity to stay out of the way and assess them all again.