***NOTE: Due to my mishap with my phone last week, I did not take pictures this morning under the advice of my husband! 🙂 The pictures in this blog were not taken this morning but they were taken by Janice Person, a great friend!
This morning was our annual breeding day at our farm for the cattle. (The hogs are bred daily on our farm but that’s another story for another blog). We AI (artificially inseminate) our cows and have found this works really well for our farm. The cows that are bred this morning will begin having their calves next August – September. There will be a few that don’t “stick” (which means the breeding didn’t take), these cows will be turned in with a bull when they come back into heat. (Heat (estrus) is simply the period of time when a cow or heifer is sexually receptive and signals that an egg, ready to be fertilized, is about to be released. It normally occurs every 18 to 24 days.)
In years past, this day was always a challenging day for Kevin and I. The kids were not quite big enough to help on their own without Kevin and I being right beside them. And normally they were both in school on breeding day. This meant Kevin and I had to do the work alone, which takes twice as long. My dad would come and help us and sometimes Kevin’s dad would try to free up some time to help us too.
This year was different though, Kevin moved our breeding day back a day because the kids didn’t have school today. Both of the kids were able to take part in the cattle round up this morning. Rachelle had basketball practice this morning though which meant things had to go just right if she was going to be able to help the entire time. And since I was her ride to school, when she had to leave, I would too.
At 6:00 am we walked outside and were greeted with lots of fog! That sure wasn’t a part of our plan but that’s just normal for farming, you always have something unexpected thrown at you! We had to wait a bit longer to begin because the fog wasn’t allowing us to see in the early morning hours while the sun was coming up. About 6:40 we were able to begin so we started out through the first pasture. The cattle worked perfectly, we were able to count the cattle as they passed through the gate in an orderly fashion. This rarely happens because there is always at least one cow that wants to turn around and go in the wrong direction.
We put the first group of cattle in the pen and headed to the next pasture to get the first year heifers (these are cows that have not been bred before). The heifers were like the first group of cows; they came in from the pasture in a single file line and went straight to the sorting pens. We were getting off so easy, I couldn’t believe it. And that’s where I should have left that thought; in the heifer lot because I think it jinxed our luck!
The next group of cows proved to be a bit more challenging. They were the farthest from the sorting pens and when we reached their pasture we found their calves (these calves were born in August – September of this year) had managed to escape! They were out in the driveway chasing each other and feeling good; they were not the least bit interested in returning to the pasture with their mothers. Rachelle was the first to discover this problem and she headed out on her 4-Wheeler to round them up. While she did this, Kevin opened up the gate so she could herd them back into the pasture. Conner and I stayed in the pasture keeping the mother cows from joining their calves in the driveway. If the kids had not been with us this morning, this job of rounding up the calves would have been a much bigger challenge for Kevin and me.
Once the calves were back with the cows, we started herding the group towards the
sorting pens. About the time the sun started to peek out beyond the horizon, this group of cattle were heading towards the pasture gate we needed them to exit which was right in line with the sun. When the sun reflected off of the fog, which was just about eye level for the cattle, it created an imaginary barrier the cattle didn’t want to cross. This meant they all turned around and headed back towards us. Kevin just happened to be in a muddy part of the pasture, and he tried to run and head them off. The problem with this idea was that his boot almost came off in the mud. We tried not to laugh at him but it was really hard not to. The cattle rushed passed him, and since I am not afraid to realize when I am in over my head, I quickly moved out of the way of the 35 head of cattle (and 35 calves) headed my way. This however wasn’t the right move for me to make according to Kevin, I should have stayed where I was and herded the cattle back in the right direction! Rachelle laughed at me and pointed out I wasn’t very brave. I pointed out to her I was working SMART, and I knew I would be more help to them if I wasn’t injured.
We re-grouped at this point and we tried again to move the cattle through the gate. The second time was successful and the cows walked the rest of the way to the sorting pens with no problems at all. Now it was time to sort the calves from the cows. This is not my favorite part because if someone is going to get hurt, this is a likely time. The cows weigh A LOT more than I do and if they step on my foot, it’s gonna hurt! To get an idea of what I am talking about, imagine having a few 1,700 pound cows running your way, it’s a bit intimidating when your only 5’ 6”! Kevin had me working the gate and he took care of sorting the calves from the cows. This was much safer for me, and Kevin is a natural when it comes to sorting cattle and working with livestock in general. I am always amazed with his ability to sense which way a cow is going to go and his ease of moving without startling the cattle. It’s a gift that can’t be taught easily; most great livestock handlers are just born with this gift.
Once the calves were sorted from the cows, it was time to start breeding the cows. And it was time for Rachelle to head to the house for a shower before ball practice. We both headed to the house for showers because I was going to the feed mill to catch up on paper work while she was at practice. And I was splattered from head to toe with cow manure! My dad came up to replace me and Rachelle during the breeding to work the gate. So far I haven’t heard how the rest of the morning went but it sure is a beautiful day to be outside working in nature and caring for the livestock.