It’s calving time at Sweet Hills Farm and all over the west! As you drive around the countryside, look for them scampering or napping in the pastures. When they’re under a week old, they’re wobbly-legged, and then they grow fast, and get very confident and rambunctious. Say hello to the first to come along on our place – a handsome little bull-calf born to first-time mamma cow, Bella. He weighed in at 87 pounds at birth, a nice hefty size. Hi Little Guy!
It’s always amazing how the motherly instinct kicks in immediately. After being born, the baby calf just lays there, stunned and exhausted for a bit. Of course, we make sure that the little calf is breathing properly, but we don’t want to interfere any more than that, unless absolutely necessary. The mamma, of course, hasn’t seen her baby yet; with a new mother, she doesn’t even know what’s happened, only that she was hurting a lot, and now she doesn’t hurt any more. But, after about 10 minutes, something tells her “Get up! You have a new BABY!” So, she does, and when she turns around and sees him, you can see the look on her face, “Oh my goodness! What is THIS? MY BABY!!!” And she begins to lick, lick, lick, cleaning him all off, warming him up, and urging him to stand for the first time. When he does, she nudges him toward her udder so that he can nurse and get that first colostrum milk, important for its antibodies and nourishment. Every birth truly seems like a new miracle.
This little guy is a purebred Angus; he’s of show quality, and was bred to sell to a 4-H or FFA kid. Then, he will be shown and sold at our local county fair. Which means that he will not remain a bull for very long, but will become a steer shortly (he’ll be castrated). We love keeping mother cows, and have only a few of them. But they are very high quality, and are a good representation of their breed. The sire of this calf is called “Retail Product,” a fancy Angus bull. The mother was bred by artificial insemination, aka “AI.” AI allows small breeders like us to improve the quality of the animals they produce without having to purchase an expensive bull. We hire an AI Technician to do the AI. He brings the mamma into heat by giving her certain hormones, then, at 12 hour intervals, inseminates her 2 or 3 times. Works almost every time! And then, Viola! 9 months later, we get a beautiful calf!
Bella delivered 7 days early before her due date. Since it was her first calf, labor took a little while, but still, only a few hours. Little Amos came easily (that’s easy for me to say!), and was up walking and nursing in less than 20 minutes. When he was born, we weighed him, ear-tagged him, gave him a shot of Vitamin AD and Bo-S-E (a selinium and vitamin E supplement), and dipped the end of his umbilicus in a 7% iodine solution.
His mamma will graze in our lush pasture with the other cows, and he will nurse all summer and into November, when we will wean him. And then, he’ll be sold, and will go to his new home with a young person, who will train him; manners, to lead on a halter, and stand politely. He’ll also learn to be groomed, bathed and primped. We’ll keep you updated, as to Amos’ (and the other calves yet to come) spring and summer activities. Calving is always a happy, exciting time for us.