Away in a Manger

Away in a Manger

Monday, January 31, 2011

Cattleman's Law


You've heard of Murphy's Law: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

But I'll bet you've never heard of the Cattlemen's Law. (That might be because I just made it up.)

The Cattleman's Law says: "Heifers will ignore the due date on the calendar if the weather is unseasonably warm. Instead, they will inevitably wait for single-digit temperatures to welcome their new babies to the world."

Here on the County Line, January 28 was the magical date that heifers were supposed to begin calving. (For the uninitiated, a heifer is female cow who will have a baby for the first time.)

January 28 was a sunny, beautiful day with high temperatures in the upper 60s. Did we have any baby calves that day?

Please refer to the Cattleman's Law. Nary a calf was born on the picture-perfect day.

But one heifer did manage to deliver her precious cargo on a beautiful day. Kansas Day - January 29 - celebrated our state's 150th anniversary and our first baby of 2011.

Correction: This was the first live baby of the year.

Our calving enterprise did not get off to an auspicious start. On Wednesday, Randy found a dead heifer during his morning check of the mamas-to-be. There was no calf's feet or head showing, so Randy didn't know the heifer was in distress - until he found it dead.

Then on Friday, Jake found two twin babies dead when he watered the older cows. Those cows aren't supposed to begin calving until February 7. The two babies came early and were too small to survive.

That was an expensive couple of days. The heifer was worth around $1,200. At the sale barn, a newborn baby calf might bring $200. Losing three calves in two days was not the kind of start we wanted for calving season.

So we were especially glad to welcome the first baby of 2011.

And even though this mama is new to this whole parenthood thing, she had the motherly instincts downpat. She was watchful and protective when two humans came sightseeing into the corral around her precious baby.


You just never know with these first-time mothers. Some of them ignore the baby. So we'd much rather have a heifer whose inborn propensity is to protect her calf.

Come to think of it, there are a bunch of human analogies here, aren't there?

This new mother was also smart enough to go against the Cattleman's Law when her 20 other corral mates seemed to be waiting for this week's frigid temperatures.

By the time we checked the new pair as evening approached, she had moved her baby from the muddy lot to nestle in the prairie hay that Randy and Jake had unrolled earlier in the week.

I took those photos by sticking my camera through the fence. They may not be the best quality of photos I ever took, but it beats getting charged by an aggravated, nervous mom.

Her protectiveness meant Randy needed to be quick and stealth-like when he put an eartag in the baby's ear earlier in the afternoon.

This little bull calf is No. 1. And just in case any of his friends question his claim at being No. 1, he can flash them his ID, so to speak.

In this case, the first "1" stands for 2011. The 001 means it was the first calf born for the year. The next one will be 1002. (Next year's firstborn will be 2001 - the "2" standing for 12.)

Randy also writes down the numbers of both the mom (972) and the calf. That way, when we take them to pasture next spring, we'll know which moms and babies go together.

These ladies-in-waiting seem content to hang out, eat and take their own precious time in their quest to become mothers.

They'll probably wait for the day when the high on the thermometer is supposed to be around 10 degrees and the wind chills are forecast at sub-zero levels. That happens to be the same day Randy is leaving to go to a Kansas Association of Wheat Growers meeting in Manhattan.

That's the sub-clause to the Cattleman's Law: "Heifers shall wait until the cattleman is out of the county to have trouble with the birthing process."

Believe me, it happens.

But, at least this time, Jake and I can put my Christmas gift to good use.

1 comment:

  1. I love your Cattleman's Law. I think you should copyright that! It is true from my experience, too. Brought back a lot of memories. Oh, and I love those baby calves!!

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