Thursday, April 23, 2015

Synchronized Isn't Just for Swimming

I have always been a little in awe of synchronized swimming. I personally am "dance challenged" standing upright on a dance floor. How can these swimmers coordinate every movement of their perfectly stretched toes and fingertips - all while trying not to drown? (I might mention I'm not much of a swimmer either, despite my mom and the neighbor ladies taking turns driving us to the pool 15 miles away to take lessons every summer.)

But synchronization isn't just for bathing-capped swimmers. It's also for our heifers. Tuesday, these ladies were on their way toward being synchronized. However, they don't have many dance moves either - though Jake did comment about some coordinated raised tails as they ran through the puddle on the way to the corral.
This kind of synchronization is so the heifers will come into estrus (or heat) at the same time.

In March, Randy and Jake mixed MGA into the feed given to 21 heifers. MGA stands for melengestrol acetate, which suppresses the ovulation cycle for the heifers. For 14 days, the guys added the MGA to the grain in the feed truck and fed the equivalent of 1/2 a pound per head per day.
On Tuesday, we gathered the heifers and ran them through the working chute for the next phase of their OB-GYN appointment.
Randy gave each heifer a shot of Lutalyse, which makes the heifers come into estrus (or heat).
He also gave each of the 25 heifers a shot of vaccine to prevent respiratory issues and diarrhea. 
So why do we try to synchronize the heifers' cycles? We do it to shorten the calving season for the heifers, which saves labor at calving time. (Well, it saves some labor for the humans - not the mama cows.) Because heifers are first-time mamas, we check them frequently in case they are having trouble calving.

The same day the Lutalyse shot was given, four bulls came a callin'. The bulls were chosen for the "job" because they are bulls whose offspring are expected to have lower birth weight, making it easier for the first-time mothers to deliver their calves.

Then 283 days later, the babies are supposed to arrive. So we will expect to get our first 80-pound bundles of joy next January 28 or so.
The four bulls will stay with the heifers for 10 days. Then one will remain with the heifers, while the others will go to different pastures with mature cows. Our cow herd should begin calving around February 7.

The photo below was taken before the heifers went through the working chute, while the heifers were on the west side of the fence and the bulls were on the right. It appeared the bulls were "checking out the ladies."
Let's hope they like what they see so there will be lots of babies in late January and early February next year!