PRYOR, OK —
A heifer watch is sort of like an Easter egg hunt. Go out in the trap, look in every brush pile, stand of trees and clump of grass to find a calf - especially if a heifer is in the vicinity. This is tricky in the dark. A horse is much more adept at finding calves than a person. If you pay attention, your horse will find the calf for you.
We have been on heifer watch for a few weeks now. There are several reasons for this, the most important of which is probably the fact the bulls stayed with the heifers nearly 90 days.
This was not the best plan, but we borrowed our friends’ bull. Well, it turned out to be two bulls. The deal was, we kept the bulls until our friends were ready to use them again. So, it was a little longer than the 60 days we would have set in a perfect world. Not a problem except for the fact that calving season can stretch a long time if the bulls are in that long.
All this was to make sure we got low birth weight bulls for our first calf heifers. And so far it’s been perfect - the few that have calved, that is.
The first heifer not only calved early, I think she must have settled when she heard us discussing going after the bulls.
Now, the three of us in this cow endeavor have taken care of hundreds of thousands of cattle for other people, but when they are your own, the whole game changes.
The morning we found the first calf, I ran for the iPad to take a picture for our friends. We went to the feed line and on the way, the new calf strayed under the fence.
I was holding the iPad, so I hollered at brother Keith to come rescue the little black bull. Just as Keith got his hands on the calf, red heifer saw what was happening. She came on the run. I thought I would get a picture of red heifer knocking Keith for a loop, but he managed to get the calf on the right side of the fence before that happened. We knew we had one good mama, at least.
Two weeks and nothing happened. I’m sure when the heifers saw us coming with our lights in the middle of the night they were laughing. “Fooled them. No babies.”
A couple more have hit the ground, but mostly we are still waiting. The bulls were worth it because the calving ease is perfect. No trouble. The calves get right up looking for a meal. So far, our heifers have been good moms with enough milk.
It doesn’t matter how many heifer watches you have been on for other people to make wages, you don’t feel the way you do if the cattle belong to you. For wages, you make yourself trudge or ride into the pen every two hours because that’s what you’re being paid to do. If they are your own, you get antsy before it’s two hours and maybe you just go on out and check early. You don’t need the alarm to wake up because you take catnaps that often end early.
My partner Mike has made the heifers so gentle he can check for milk when they are standing loose. He never did that with other people’s cows. Of course he never fed other people’s cows cake out of his hand, either.
The heifer watch continues.
I know what you’re thinking —we’ve been naming those babies. So what if we have?