Thursday, February 28, 2008

To breed a heifer

I'm adding this in March of 2010 for all of you who end up here by typing "When to breed a heifer" into Google.  The answer is at age fifteen months, so they'll calve at age two.  By the way, the heifer I was talking about in this entry turned out to be sterile, although she cycled just fine.  We hauled her to the sale barn.  I now have a lovely little registered Jersey cow that I milk whenever I feel like it, and let her calf take care of the milk the rest of the time.

Back when I had a herd of registered Jersey cattle, I didn't keep a bull around for breeding purposes. Jersey bulls are famous for being nasty, mean, and downright dangerous. So I would call a man who would come and artificially inseminate my ladies.

I don't recall what the price was, but it was a wonderful way to keep my herd procreating. Sometimes a cow wouldn't settle (become pregnant) on the AI man's first attempt; he'd come back and try again, charging this time for only his trip, not the semen. After three attempts, I had to pay, once again, for the semen. However, about two times out of three, the cow would settle the first breeding. A side benefit of this practice was that my little unknown, nobody cows were bred to the finest Jersey bulls in the country that were worth thousands of dollars.

A cow comes in heat every three weeks. The first hint you get is that she'll bellow and walk the fence. Other cows will try to mount her like a bull would, but she won't allow it for twelve to twenty-four hours. When she does stand for other cows to mount her, that's called "standing heat". When this happens, you count twelve to twenty-four more hours and then call the A.I. technician.

When we started learning all this, I was always in a hurry to call the breeder-man. The cow seemed so desperate, after all. Almost as though she were in pain. I only wanted to give her some relief, put her out of her misery. So our old cow didn't get bred the first couple of times I called, until the old A.I. man explained the timing to me.

Where am I going with all this? Well, my heifer, Secret, is a year old. In May she'll be old enough to breed. I called a local veterinary and got the name of an ABS breeder who lives not far from here. But when I called and talked to his wife, she informed me that he doesn't keep semen of "the rare breeds". I told her I'd be willing to buy five straws of semen for him to store for me in his (you have to buy in lots of five), and she said he'd call back. He never did.

Semen, by the way, is stored in liquid nitrogen tanks where it remains viable for years. To read about the history of artificial insemination, click HERE.

I've gotten in touch with the people from whom I bought Secret; they have a bull, but don't sound too enthusiastic about letting us use him. And I hate to beg.

Cliff's brother has an Angus bull, so if all else fails, that's where I'll take my heifer. Then she'll have a nondescript, small-boned black calf. A mongrel.

But I sure would like to get a cute little Jersey calf from her.

Secret was born during a very cold time last February, so the tips of her ears and the tip of her tail froze. It makes her look a little strange, I'll admit.

Now playing: Ramblin' Jack Elliott - Mean Mama Blues
via FoxyTunes


BarnGoddess said...

awwww! I hope you are able to get a little jersey calf outta her!!!!

I remember my turkey basting days when I worked on the ranch. ew.

Astaryth said...

I'm hoping you do some more checking around and find someone who has some jersey semen... I think a little calf would be great fun!

Anonymous said...

Hey Donna, let me know if you can hook me up with a good nurse cow. Bottle calves is gonna kill or badly hurt She-Wolf otherwise.....

Trade you some laying hens, maybe????


Midlife Mom said...

I learned a lot from this post! I think Secret is so adorable, she's just got to have a nice jersey calf!

Rachel said...

Oh, a calf from Secret would be great!! The poor dear having her ears and tail freeze!! Bless her heart!!

Muhd Imran said...

Interesting read. I get to learn a bit about cattle ranching. Cool!

All the best. Have a good weekend.

Kalin said...

I've been lurking around your blog for a while. I love to read about people and their cattle. :)

I'm curious, did you tend to have more bull calves than heifer calves when you AI'd?

Donna said...

Kalin, we had about 50/50 on the calves, although if anything we had more heifers.

LeeLee said...

One of the prettiest calves we ever bought to butcher was came from a Jersey cow bred AI to an Angus bull. He was just gorgeous; sort of a dark coppery color.