Sunday, February 21, 2010

Can you ear me now?

Sorry about the missed post yesterday. It was more an issue of computer problems than anything else. Today was a gorgeous day but the temperature is dropping tonight. The temperature rose to 53 degrees today but supposed to drop to 23 tonight. It was a great sunny day though and my family and even some of my extended family were able to spend some time enjoying “calf watching” today at feeding time. Thanks to nieces Alex and SalliRose and Aunt Desiree for sharing some of the morning with us.

In my Friday post I mentioned “Rabbitears” an old Brahma cow who had a new calf. There were four Brahma cows Dad brought home from the auction many years ago. Brahma cattle and Brahma cross cattle are popular and abundant in the southern United States but not as common here. They do well in the hot summers and are very resistant to many insect pests but they do not like the cold winters much. These four cows have all been good producers over the years and they have always been some of our favorites because of their unconventional looks and really docile (yes really) temperaments. Rabbitears is the last of the original four here on the ranch.

In December of 2008 we had quite a bit of snow and very cold weather and Rabbitears seemed to really show her age. I told the girls that no matter what 2009 would be her last year here. I had firm plans to sell her in the fall when her 2009 calf was weaned. It is always a hard decision to cull an old cow who has been a good producer solely based on age. Often these cows have other issues related to age that make the culling decision. Milk production lowers and calf growth will suffer, they do not rebreed, they have structural issues etc. The only thing wrong with Rabbitears is that she seems to go into each winter in thinner condition than the last and she seems to move a bit slower on cold days. Her calf production and calving schedule has stayed consistently good. To my recollection she has always calved in the month of February and I know she has been here at least since 1996.

Dad had a theory that some cows just earned the right to a natural death on the ranch because of age because of years of production. While I appreciated his idea I felt there was a time when you just had to cull a cow, send her to town and let her provide the public with wholesome and nutritious protein. I grew up consuming many of these types of cows and I would never sell anything into the beef chain that I would not feed myself or family. Although the cow is old she can still make safe, wholesome and nutritious ground beef. These older beef cows on our ranch have lived their whole lives only consuming grass and other plant forage. These cows have never been given growth hormones and contrary to what the media will tell you have never been massed dosed with antibiotics. The only time they would have ever been given ANY antibiotics is if they had some type of issue such as pink eye or foot rot. I know that sending these cows to be made into meat after years of ownership may sound inconsiderate to some if you have ever watched an aged cow die a natural death that was not quick or had to euthanize an old cow to put her out of a painful situation you would likely have a better understanding. Anyway, off the soapbox.

When I did the fall culling of 2009 I decided to stay true to my word and send Rabbitears away along with several other cows that had various issues including age to auction. It was a tough decision but one I was sure was correct. When I counted the cows to sell I had two more than the truck would hold. I bet you cannot guess who got a one year reprieve. Rabbitears and 6047y who was the mother to one of Samanthas show steers last year. Rabbitears did better this winter because of the mild winter and I was pleased that was the case. She is a bit on the thin side but now that spring grass is right around the corner I am sure she will be fine and raise her calf wonderfully. As a bonus she had a heifer calf that looks almost just like her. We will very likely keep her calf as a replacement heifer next year and the 203y family tradition of long ears, deep Brahma bawl, calm temperament and good production can continue into the future.

Today’s real environmentalist species is Green foxtail aka Setaria viridis.

Today’s picture is Rabbitears cow number 5203y and her new heifer calf 0203y.