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11/10/05: For the longest time we have been discussing getting some cattle for the ranch and yesterday our plans and dreams came to fruition with the arrival of Bertie, Belle, Heath, Boone and Scooter. We never wanted or intended to get into cattle in a big way and as it turns out we've gotten in small. Very small in fact. The cattle we're starting with (2 bulls and 3 cows) are Belted Galloways and Dexters. Dexters are the smallest non-dwarf breed of cattle in the world standing less than 46" at the shoulders and the "Belties" aren't a whole lot bigger. Not being experienced cowhands we thought these more manageable-sized beasties would be a good way to learn about working with them.
Meet the Gang
Dexter cow "Belle" (left) and her 2004 son, bull "Scooter"
Belted Galloway cows "Bertie" (left) and "Heath"
Dexter bull "Boone"
January Update: Our small cattle herd has settled in nicely and have developed a regular routine of (almost) daily coming to the main compound at morning and evening milking times (for the goats) for their breakfast and dinner treats. The rest of the time they can be seen out grazing down in the valley or lazing around, cudding under a tree somewhere.
All three of the girls are starting to show their pregnancies and it's great being able to make regular checks on their condition. Theoretically none are due before mid-February but...! They are all becoming more accepting of us and somewhat trusting but there's still work to be done in that area. Bull Boone actually seems to quite enjoy getting his head scratched now.
Our Very First Calf is Born!
February Update: You'd think we'd be old hands at this "birthin' babies" stuff by now but the sight of our very first ranch-born calf was really special. Born 2/1/06 to our Dexter cow "Belle", and Dexter bull "Boone", this precious little dun-colored bundle of energy is a real joy. Belle's being quite protective of her new youngster and we haven't been able to get too close yet but we're pretty sure she's a little heifer!
Belle and Baby Belle
June Update: Bertie was the second cow to calve for us this year. She had a little bull calf "Bog" on May 6th. At first we were afraid that she was not nursing him because she seemed so bagged-up when we saw her out on the range or when she came in at feeding time. Eventually we saw him drinking just fine. I guess she is just a very good milk producer. Since then, he's grown like a weed and is now taking every drop she has to offer and is working at solid food.
To make sure that Bertie's new little calf had someone to play with, Heath calved the very next day, 5/7/06. She had a beautiful little heifer, "Heather" .
Bertie's little bull "Bog"
Heath's heifer "Heather"
(now, try saying it 3 times fast!)
On Valentine’s Day Belle calved with a dun bull (Brach). In Mid-March Bertie and Heath calved with bulls also (Bogie and Hondo respectively). All are doing great. The three bull calves have formed their own clique and delight in getting into mischief and causing trouble. In June, Baby Belle calved with a dun bull (Liberty). That makes 4 for 4 bull calves this year. The newest fella quickly learned to hang out with the older boys and learn all their special troublemaking techniques.
In April we started fattening up Bog for butchering in July but the guy refused to eat grain. Finally after many trials, we discovered that he liked Animax – a high protein (and high priced) dairy pellet. Due to the delay in getting him eating, we pushed back the butcher date until August.
Brach went to his new home in July and is looking forward to his "work" as a herd sire.
Well, I guess it's been awhile since my last update. But the herd is still here and doing well. We did have to sell Heath since our range just wasn't enough for the whole herd and we wanted to avoid over grazing. We still have Boone, our bull, plus Bertie and Belle. Both cows have produced calves every year. Right now they are both nursing little heifers. We also have a 2 year old steer that we will put in the freezer soon, possibly around the holidays, plus a yearling bull. He, too, is destined for the freezer but not until next year. He was left as a bull in case we decided to sell him for breeding, so it will be interesting to see how he and Boone get along. Brach (see the 2001 update above), now referred to as Valentino since he was born on Valentine's Day, is working as a bull at a nearby ranch and we hear great things about him.
Once again it's been awhile. We just keep so busy here!
The cows continue to produce calves each year. And up until this year we have had no problems. So this Spring when Bertie calved with a lovely little heifer we didn't expect any problems. The heifer seemed healthy and active, but then we didn't see her for a couple days. It's not unusual for calves to get "parked" by their moms while the moms go off and graze. But after a couple of days of not seeing the little one, we went looking for her. We found her dead body laying in a wash. She didn't seem to have been injured or attacked. She looked peaceful laying there. We have no idea what went wrong. Bertie mourned her lost baby for quite awhile.
Belle calved with a dun heifer. But Belle couldn't make enough milk to feed the hungry girl. We are now supplementing "Nell" with half a gallon of goat milk once a day. It's a challenge bottle feeding the daughter of a wild, horned, range cow!! Belle wasn't at all pleased to begin with but now, a month later, she is grudgingly accepting our help.
Pictured on left is Bertie with her bull calf from last year. Pictured on right is David feeding Nell, with the rest of the herd supervising.
The cows certainly have been a challenge this year. When we called the livestock inspector so that we could bring our 2-year-old Belted steer in for slaughter, he told us that we couldn’t do that until our cows were branded. Huh?? We’ve had these cows for 9 years without being told that they had to be branded. In fact, I had called the Ag Department before we even got cows and asked them what we had to do, and they said nothing about branding. So it was quite a surprise when the inspector got so furious with us that he threatened to confiscate our herd if we didn’t get it done.
So in June with the help of a friend, we hauled our small herd to our vet’s corrals where we attempted to freeze brand them. Freeze branding destroys the ability of the hair to produce color so the hair grows back white, which would show up beautifully against the black hair surrounding the brand. Unfortunately we didn’t do it correctly because the brands never became visible. So in September we hauled 4 of the cows back to those corrals to try it again. When we shaved the hair in order to get a good brand, we could see the other brand! For some reason it just wasn’t showing up through all of the other hair. We got them rebranded and are hoping that it will grow in correctly so that the inspector will let us bring the big Beltie in for slaughter. We’d really like to put some beef in our freezer!
We knew that this year would be Belle’s last year here. She was getting old and has not been able to raise her calves anymore. So we were really hoping that she would give us a black, polled, heifer for us to keep as a replacement. We actually got our wish! Named “Thanks for Sharin’ ” (AKA Sharon) due to her flinging milk everywhere while being bottle fed, she looks great and we are thrilled to have her.
Bertie also gave us a heifer calf that we will keep. Initially Bertie’s milk didn’t come in well so we did bottle feed “2Spot” for awhile. But eventually Bertie was not only feeding her own calf, but also adopted Sharon which made our work load much easier.
First time momma, Nelle, gave us a bull calf that we will raise for meat. All the calves look great though we are not looking forward to hauling them to our vet’s corrals for branding soon.
We were able to finally get a steer in for slaughter this year. That big guy provided us with lots of great meat that we are really enjoying.
We have really been enjoying the grass-fed beef! We put another steer in the freezer in January. We were also able to sell a steer since we had extra.
Along with downsizing the steers, we also found a new home for Bertie. She gave us a bull calf before she left, and once he was old enough to wean Bertie headed to her new home. She is getting old, yet staying quite productive. However, we felt that she needed a smaller space with more “catering”. From what we can tell she is being spoiled royally.
Our plan is to keep Bertie’s bull calf "Boomer", and sell old man Boone. Boone is a wonderful bull, gentle and protective of his herd, but he, too, needs to slow down and move to an easier job.
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