Monday, February 09, 2015

Cattle breeding 101

A year ago, my usual calf suppliers had dairy-fresh Jersy/Holstein calves for sale, as they always do in February and March.  I called and ordered two bull calves, and told them I would like one bull calf that looked mostly Jersey and was really small.

You see, I like small Jersey cows.  There was a time when all Jerseys were small-framed; then in the sixties, breeders started selecting for size and little by little the average size of the breed got larger.  Oh, there were still tiny ones around, but on average, Jerseys were larger than in the old days.  My plan was to leave the smaller of the two calves un-castrated, keep him around long enough to breed my two cows, and then butcher him before he became dangerous.  Jersey bulls have the reputation of being very ornery and, yes, downright dangerous, especially after the age of two.  

When the grandson went out with Cliff to castrate Jethro, the larger of the two calves I bought, he couldn't believe I was keeping the tiny one for a bull.  I explained to him that I like small Jersey cows; Cliff gave him a look that said, "Don't ask... when she gets one of these ideas, it's useless to talk to her."  

Jethro grew very nicely for a mostly Jersey steer.  We had to sell him earlier than expected because he began nursing Grace, the pregnant heifer, but cattle prices being what they are, we were happy with the price he brought.

Meanwhile Homer, the little bull, barely grew at all.  Oh, he matured.  He just didn't seem to grow much.  As the time drew near for Grace to have her calf, I wondered more and more if Homer could do the job required of him in the three months' time before Grace needed his services.  I began to question why I even wanted to own a bull when all we have to do is load up a cow or heifer, haul her a few miles, give a man $50, and let the nice Red Angus bull do his job.   No risk of being killed by a raging Jersey bull and no worries.

Now, there is such a thing as a miniature Jersey.  This bull we kept would qualify, believe me.  Trouble is, nobody who knows cattle wants one, only certain "hobbyists" who like cute little cows.  I don't like them that small!

About a month after having her lovely, half-Red-Angus calf, Grace came into heat.  Homer had no problem knowing what he should do, and he never let Grace out of his sight for a full forty-eight hours.  He tried, oh how he tried.  He was equipped for the job and had everything needed, except for height.  He was barely taller than the Holstein calves I had just purchased.

Every three weeks Grace would come into heat, and every time Homer dutifully followed her around, trying his best to scale the heights of Mount Gracie.  I told Cliff, "We just need to butcher him and haul the cow to the Red Angus bull."  

"Maybe he'll catch her on a hillside," Cliff said.  Yeah.  Right.  We had even put a halter on her one time and tried to make things happen (picture that, if you will).  Thank goodness no neighbors were watching.  

This past weekend was the time for Gracie to cycle again... I had it written on the calendar.  

We didn't see any of the usual activity, and in fact, Homer showed no interest in her at all.  He didn't even act as though she existed.

Could it be?

That's the bull in the middle, between Gracie and Penny.  All three animals are pretty much at an equal distance away from the camera.


Helen said...

Hopefully you won't be hawling her off to visit with the red bull.

Calfkeeper said...

hehehe... Maybe it could be. We just put our newest bull in with a herd of heifers. He is only about 19 months old and rather small for a Holstein. They are up the road so we can't see them all the time, but we haven't seen any activity when we are up there, so we are hoping things are happening.

Celeste Sanders said...

hummmmmmmmm. Maybe he just did not want you to watch! Shorties fins a way to get it down. How else do weenie dogs breed bigger dogs?

Anonymous said...

I used to have dairy goats and had a wee Toggenburg buck that had a challenge in the big does. My 8 year old son saw the problem...He rolled a tire out to the goat pen and little buck jumped on the tire while son backed the big does up there. Mission accomplished.

Margaret said...

Does that mean she could already be pregnant? (I know nothing about cows!)


I love these stories you tell about your herd. BUT could be what? That she's pregnant? That he's doing it in private? Or that he doesn't he like the ladies? Enlighten me please. I'm curious to know?

Sister--Three said...

Ha. We will know in time! I have forgotten how much time?