Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Heifers No More

I promised that my next post would be of a lighter nature so, for today, I am putting off talking about the ongoing dry conditions and large amount of fire damage in much of northern Alberta. Instead, I have a little spring update that I meant to post 3 weeks ago.

Some time back I mentioned that 4 of our bred heifers were due to calve. Well, they were good enough to wait til my parents returned, and they were also good enough to have 4 perfect little calves. All were born without aid and were healthy and strong. Only one is a heifer though, so the other three will be beef after a year or so of grazing, playing and lounging.

Born most recently was this cute fellow. He is the smallest of the 4 but his mother has a lovely full udder so he is likely to grow quickly. Speaking of his mother, Lickerish (who was introduced in a post last year), comes from one of Dad's best cows. Dad figures Lickerish's mother is around 18 years old. That is VERY old for a cow, and she has had an excellent, quiet-natured calf for 17 of those 18 years. She gave a bull this year so Lickerish may be the last of her genetics on the farm when she goes later this year or next year. We always hate to see such fine animals finally leave.

If anything, Lickerish seems even more quiet now that she is a cow.

This cow had the second most recent calf, delivering about 2 or 3 days before Lickerish. She is another cow that Dad has kept for a very long time, almost as long as Lickerish's mother. She lost her calf last year so she is very, very watchful of her young bull this year. This will be her last year with us and it goes without saying that she will be missed. As this year's calf is a bull, we will have no genetics remaining from her.

These were the first two calves from this year's replacement heifers.

The ginger bull in the front is from one of the Blonde D'Aquitaine heifers that were bought last spring. He is growing incredibly quickly and it will be interesting to see how big he is at weaning. His mother had some udder swelling before he was born and it took a few days to abate. As such, she was a bit of a kicker when he would eat and is also something of an aloof mother. Hopefully she gets a little more attentive in the future but it is clear that she has excellent milk.

The white faced heifer in the rear was the first calf born to this year's replacement heifers. We thought her mother would be the last to deliver as she was the smallest in size and belly. If she grows well, she will be the only one of the four that is kept this year, as she is the only heifer.

So in terms of cattle at least, it has been an excellent spring. It is now around 3 weeks after those pictures were taken and all 4 calves are growing nicely. Its always uplifting to see them tearing around the pasture.

Now we just need some rain so the grass will keep growing so their mothers can keep giving them rich milk and stay healthy themselves.


LindaM said...

Wow! Congratulations on such a productive spring! I remember Lickerish:)
I have a naive question though. What do you mean when you say a bull doesn't carry the mothers gene pool? I know you know this from growing up on a farm most likely but is there any recommended reading on the topic that you can think of?

Jerry said...

Sure bulls carry the genes from the mother but they would then have to breed something to pass those genes on. Its not economical to keep so many young bulls and try to arrange which of them will breed which cows.

We could keep Lickerish`s half brother but then he would have the opportunity to breed at least 2 females to which he is partially related. Given our luck buying bulls lately, this is tempting but I doubt we will do it.

So to clarify, I didn`t mean that bulls do not carry their mother`s genes, just that it is unlikely they`ll have the chance to be passed on in our herd.

Thanks for the interest!

Teresa said...

They are so cute. I love seeing the calves play. I tend to keep one of my small billy goats back to breed some of the younger girls from the other line in my herd and then sell them as yearlings. A lot easier to raise a goat to maturity than a bull.

LindaM said...

Thanks for clarifying:) That makes more sense to me. I look forward to hearing more when you feel like writing about it.

Walter Jeffries said...

Congrats on the perfect births. It is such a joy when everything goes right. You're right about the "few males pass on their genes". Same on the farm as in the wild. Here I figure that only about 0.5% of the boars will get a chance to breed. Compare that with the 1 in 20 (5%) of the gilts we'll test breed.

Jerry said...

It certainly is nice, Walter. The last calf actually did need to have some placental tissue removed from over its nose. Lickerish might have got it licked clear in time but I'm glad Dad was there nonetheless.