No matter how well you plan, how many notes you make and how you figure the situation, Mother Nature always has a way of overruling.
In the past, we have tried to ‘schedule’ our breeding program so that calves will begin arriving in January and February. The thought behind this is that the calves will be old enough to start eating solid foods (grass, feed) around the time the pastures begin to green up. Since we had our own bulls, it was an easy schedule to adhere to.
As our bulls got older, it became apparent that we would need to be replacing them. Instead of purchasing one outright, we decided that, for a couple of years at least, we would share one with our neighbor Danny. The sharing portion of it prevented any fixed breeding plan. Once Black Bart was through taking care of business at Danny’s, then he came to us. Or vice versa.
Our turn with Black Bart started last fall. By our calculations, most of the calves would begin arriving in late August, and continue through September. Although that is several months earlier than we like, it still works out okay. Still, we can’t be in the pasture 24/7, to determine when breeding actually takes place. Much to our dismay, we noticed that the other cows were ‘riding’ one of our young heifers, which tells us she is not bred. And Bart left last week, so there isn’t any way to get her bred. What further disturbs us is that she has probably cycled a minimum of seven times while Bart was here. This means that she either cannot breed, or has ‘sloughed’ a calf in the first trimester. As much as we don’t like it, we now have to consider sending her to the sale barn, as a non-productive cow costs us in ways we cannot afford.
With the exception of watching her closely, we have pretty much let the cows do their things. We aren’t close enough, or so we thought, to birthing time. Imagine my surprise when, on my way home from a quick trip to Shreveport Friday, I get a call from Randy telling me that we have a new calf.
Apparently, Little Mama doesn’t think much of our breeding plan and she was bred by Bart when our backs were turned. I couldn’t wait to get home. As soon as I did, I headed out with my camera to check out the new baby. Now, one thing you want to always remember when approaching a brand new calf and her Mama – walk softly and be prepared to duck, dodge and jump into the hay ring. Mama cows are extremely protective of their young, and although we can almost get away with approaching since we are known, that isn’t always the case. Take Victoria for example – on a frigid, rainy January midnight, that cow almost sent Randy sailing across the pasture when he tried to check on her new baby. Needless to say, we inch closer with caution, one eye on Mama, and one on baby.
This time, a miracle happened. The baby was curled up in a patch of grass, and I was trying to get a clear picture from a distance. It wasn’t easy. I finally just put my camera down and stared in awe at the beautiful new creature. Not really expecting an answer, I asked Little Mama if she had a girl or boy. Much to my surprise, Little Mama nudged the calf in the back end until the calf stood up. Then Little Mama kept nudging it in my direction. As the calf got close enough for me to touch, Little Mama backed up a step or two. Slowly, I reached out my hand and petted the new little head. Talk about love at first touch! Oh, it was such a beautiful baby!
Softly, I congratulated Little Mama, and then respectfully stepped back from the baby. As the calf laid back down, Little Mama came up and began licking her, which tilted the baby up just enough that I could see. Folks, we have a new baby girl on the Plantation!
To keep my promise, I let my friend Xochitl name the new calf. So, please join me in welcoming La Vaquita Ginger to the world. And the name suits her, as she is primarily red, with only a white tip on her tail and a white patch on her belly.
Ginger is a bit small, probably weighing in at around 50 pounds, instead of the normal 70 pounds. It could be that she is a bit early, but we know enough by now to realize our schedules aren’t always perfect, and she could be right on time. Either way, she will be a great asset to our herd. So, stay tuned. Ginger makes one, with six more to go. I think. I guess it all boils down to what Mother Nature decides. Oh, if I could only have a sit down with that woman, my life might just be a little easier!