Tuesday, January 28, 2020

And So It Begins Again: Class of 2020

There's no hiding from it: Calving season 2020 has begun. With more snow on the way today, we'll see if the expectant mamas respond to that old wives' tale that says births happen when there are changes in the weather.

We didn't get off to a momentous start. Last Tuesday, a baby was born 3 weeks early to a cow on Peace Creek. It was just too small to survive.

Our 25 heifers began calving last Thursday. While the projected due date was today (January 28), the heifers who are calving are delivering full-term babies. We schedule our heifers to begin calving a couple of weeks prior to the whole cow herd, since the first-time moms require more frequent checking.
This little white-faced guy was the first one to join the Class of 2020. However, the ear tag doesn't support that claim.
Even though this black calf was born second, he got the 000 ear tag.
Location, location, location: He was closer to the gate when we arrived with the ear tags the next morning. And, contrary to the triple-zero moniker, it doesn't mean this calf is worth nothing ... nada ... zip. In our herd, the first number signifies the year that the baby was born. In this case, the year 2020 meant our numbers begin with "0" for this calving season.
We have the heifers in a corral near our house. The mamas were born on The County Line in 2018, and Randy chose 25 of them to retain for our own herd.

The too-early arrival wasn't the only challenge we've already faced. This little guy's mama was not interested in claiming it.
Randy moved the calf into the calving shed to warm it up. Then, we tried to corral the mother and put it in the calving shed with the calf. She jumped the fence twice, leading a few of her compatriots astray as they all tried out for the heifer version of the Olympic high jump trials.

After the second time, I told Randy, "We need to find some higher panels." So we added three more panels to the corral right outside the calving shed. (I can testify that my muscles could feel the "burn" the next morning after lifting the panels into the back of the pickup, taking them out and helping to position them.)
We ran a group of the heifers into the corral again. And the mom (No. 849, for the record) tried to jump the fence again. The taller fence prevailed, and we finally got it into the shed. But then she burst through the head gate. And Randy decided it wasn't worth getting either of us hurt.
We mixed up some colostrum and fed the calf with a tube feeder. (Yes, the photo is blurry. It's not easy to do a job and take photos at the same time. That's why there are no photos of the round-up itself, and this one is blurry. Someone asked me the other day how I can work and take photos at the same time. The answer is this: Sometimes I can't.)

After we fed the calf, we left it in the calving shed, figuring we'd have to continue to tube feed it or bottle feed it.
Then Randy had a brainstorm. Another heifer had lost a calf the same day. We would attempt to graft that heifer and the orphaned baby calf.
This heifer is much calmer and more cooperative. At first, Randy milked the heifer.
She wasn't sold on the idea at first.
But, as the song from "Fiddler on the Roof" says, "Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles" the two have found each other.

As you can see in the top two photos, it took awhile for the calf to figure out which end of the mother yielded the warm treat.  Success!
That makes the farmer happy. (And the farmer's wife, too!)
Tomorrow - January 29 - is Kansas Day, and our state celebrates its 159th birthday. Kansas was admitted as a state of the Union in 1861. Even back in those days, the livestock industry was an important aspect of the state's agricultural economy. The state ranked third in the nation in cattle population by 1890, a position it held for several decades. Mixed farming (grain-livestock) has always been the predominant form of agriculture on Kansas family farms, including both the Fritzemeier and Moore agricultural legacies.

Thousands of head of cattle were shipped on trains from rail heads in Kansas to packing plants in Kansas City, Chicago, and other cities to the east.  Between 1867 and 1885, towns like Abilene, Ellsworth, Wichita, Newton, Caldwell, and Dodge City became famous for their place in the cattle industry.
Photo from the Kansas State Historical Society, dated between 1891 and 1912
With the closing of the open range, Kansas cattlemen began to place greater emphasis on the breeding of better stock.  Shorthorns and Herefords were popular in the 1890s, according to the Kansas State Historical Society. Herefords are still part of the genetics on our County Line farm, along with Angus.
Happy Birthday, Kansas! Maybe we'll increase our party attendance with a few more calves.
For more on my family's arrival in Kansas, check out this blog post from Kansas Day 2016. More information about the Fritzemeier's history in the Kansas cattle industry can be found here.


  1. A wonderful result. Clever farmer. I hope the remaining births go smoothly!

    1. Thank you. We are just getting started. The lots are a mess right now after all the moisture, but the wheat should benefit from a "drink of water."