Fall on the Farm

First calf of the year
First calf of the year

Fall calves this year! I noticed last summer that Fuzzy Bear, our Devon bull, was rebreeding the cows and sure enough when we preg checked it became clear that we needed to bring in another bull. I think Fuzzy injured himself going through the fence that my neighbor has weakened numerous times by cutting it to get her straying horses back in. Sigh. At least she kept her pack of dogs from attacking my sheep this year, and the fence issue has been turned over to the town chairman. I hated to see Fuzzy go for he was a wonderful bull–built like a rhinoceros but calm, even a little shy.

The temporary replacement bull was an Angus but there’s not a solid black calf out there! Except for some that are all brown, they are varied in their markings and are a very vigorous group. Almost all heifers, which is just fine for growing the herd and being ready to replace cows as they get older.

Fall calves get left on the cows all winter, which is a practice that I have gravitated towards over the years anyway. I used to wean spring-born calves and give them grain with their hay through the winter (and this year I will separate out the 5 early-born calves I purchased and give them organic oats for I feel they need that little bit extra and less competition for hay) but, more and more, I’ve seen that allowing natural weaning is a benefit to the calf. Since my cows have a lot of hardy Hereford blood in them and generous hay through the winter they never seem to lose condition before the next year’s calving. I’ve also not had any problems with last year’s calves getting the milk that’s meant for a newborn; I think the cows are just too smart and tough to allow that to happen.

I have a new Devon for the 2015 calves. He came as “R17” and I’m calling him “Rudy.” He looks good and appears to be doing his job. He’s not quite as shy as Fuzzy was, always seems to be checking out what’s going on, so I’m always checking on his whereabouts, too!

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