Starting about a year ago, we began having cattle problems. I can truthfully say that, for the most part, the problems have all been cause by the fact that I don't pay as much attention to them as I should. And honestly, after the deaths and mishaps that have happened, I care less about them. When Crystal (the whiteface you see on the current header) recently lost her first calf because he was too big and she was too small, I made the remark, "I need to just sell them all."
Crystal came around after calving and seemed to feel just fine. Then another aggravation came up: We discovered that Jethro, the five-month-old steer who we thought was weaned, was nursing Gracie, a heifer who has never had a calf or produced milk. This could do damage to her udder. In fact, it may already have done so, because who knows how long he had been doing this.
We put a thing in his nose that has sharp, protruding metal pieces that will poke a cow when a calf nurses her, so she won't allow him access. A month went by, and then the other day I went out to feed the cats and guess what? He had learned to approach her so gently that she was still allowing him to nurse.
We discussed what to do, and decided to take him to Cliff's brother's farm so he could become weaned. Cliff tried to call his brother for three days, and for some reason he never answered or returned the calls. On the third day, I said, "You know what? I think we should haul him to the Kingsville sale, just get rid of him. All we were going to do with him was butcher him, and Homer (the bull we bought at the same time as Jethro) can be butchered after he breeds our two cows."
Sunday I saw my opportunity to shut him in the small lot, and hooked the chain onto a nail so the gate would stay closed. We'd haul him off Monday.
Every time I stepped out the front door and saw him, the thought would cross my mind that we really should sell Crystal, since we'd be making a trip anyway. I even mentioned this to Cliff, then thought no more about it.
Monday morning I got up and glanced out the window to see Crystal in the small lot with Jethro. Somehow I guess she, or maybe one of the horses, had gotten the chain off the nail and pushed her way through the gate, which then closed behind her.
You don't have to hit me over the head. We sold them both, and considering one is all dairy and one is half, the money wasn't bad. So our herd is much smaller now.
The million-dollar question is this: Will Homer have the maturity and size five months from now to breed Gracie? She is due October 19, and we would like her to be re-bred by the time her calf is three months old in January. Homer will be eleven months old. Penny is due May 2, so he should be ready for her. I will be watching closely to see if the bull shows any signs of aggression, since Jersey bulls have a bad reputation. If he can manage to breed both cows, we'll probably be ready for some hamburger at that time and will butcher him.
We do have a sweet deal with a local guy I contacted through Craigslist: A cow comes in heat, we load her and go ten miles with her, leaving her to spend a night of passion with either a Red Angus or a Black Angus bull. We hand the owner fifty bucks and we have a pregnant cow. When I think about this I ask myself, what are we doing with a bull, anyhow?