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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Young Angus Admires His Growing Brood

In the last month we have had three lambs and four calves born. Thankfully none of the births were very difficult (the Farmer only had to pull one of them). After we figured out that the calves were lacking selenium, we got everyone back on track. Except for the one lamb that we lost to a squashing incident, everyone is doing just fine.

Which is a good thing, because I don’t know what we would do if we had a real problem with the cows. We just aren’t set up for it. Thankfully, when the calves wouldn’t suckle, our cows stood fairly still and allowed the Farmer to steal some of the colostrum to feed their young. If they didn’t stand, we would have had to put them in some sort of stockade until mother and child each learned their role. We don’t have a stockade. Most of our feeders in the lambing room have now been busted into toothpicks by the cows and their big blockheads. What we need is some kind of heavy-duty metal apparatus. It will take a while for our herd to grow, especially if our cows keep having bull calves instead of heifers. But we need to be ready.

Each mother and child duo was kept inside for the first week after the birth. Our lambing pens are so mucked up now; you would think a rodeo happened in there. This gorgeous mild winter weather is perfect for introducing the calves to snow. They jump and play and moo with delight. And they are learning not to stand too close to the barn, where snowdrifts occasionally slide down off the roof onto their heads. So far the bull is very attentive but the Farmer says he isn’t really connected to his young; he is just curious of the newcomers to the barnyard. I’m not sure I agree. After each birth, Young Angus spent at least an hour pawing at the door to the lambing room, mooing to get inside. I think he knows they are his babies, and he is interested in them. Now that they are all outside, he seems to check on them, as if he is counting heads. If everyone wanders out to eat from the bale and one calf remains inside the stall, he moos for it to follow. I don’t know if it is routine to separate the bull from the new mothers and calves, but so far there doesn’t seem to be a problem. If Angus starts “bullying” the babies or harassing the mothers, we will have to put him somewhere else. That should be interesting, because he hates to be alone.

When we got Angus, Dennis Wilson the cattle drover delivered him to our farm. The back of the truck opened and out hopped wee Angus, our little black bull. The Farmer was a little surprised by the bull’s diminutive stature, but he figured the bull would grow quickly.

That first night, the Farmer put Angus in a stall that he had specially reinforced for the young bull. The cows were on the other side of the barn, in a separate area. Whenever we get a new cow, we always keep them in the barn for the first week, so they learn they are home. That was the plan with Young Angus as well.

Later that first night we went out to the barn to check on our new bull. He was no longer in his pen. We shone our flashlights in corners around the barnyard, searching for the newcomer. Finally, when we approached the line of cows lounging beside the hay feeder, we noticed a small black lump tucked tightly in the middle of them. Angus had found his new home. And he hasn’t left his girls since. I hate to think what would happen if we had to separate him from his new family. He would not be happy.

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