Thursday, February 19, 2009

Feeding the Heifers-Part II

Feeding the heifers is an important ranch chore from late January to mid March. Yesterday we saw the cousins getting the hay ready, and today we're going to take the hay out to the circle field, where the heifers are. Desert Boy was very excited to have another opportunity to drive the tractor. He still doesn't steer very well, despite my husband trying to show him. I've told him I think we should wait a few years, but I get outvoted.

We have two different kinds of hay on the trailer, oat hay on the left and alfalfa hay on the right. This mixture gives the heifers a more balanced diet. (At least I think it does--my husband isn't around to check with, but if it sounds reasonable it must be right, right?)

One of my jobs was to take the fence down so the tractor could go through. Because the cousins usually do this job, the fence is closed with a ratchet strap. It's so much easier than the usual loop of barbed wire that you have to wrestle with while trying not to get your clothing torn.
As soon as we get into the field, the heifers come quickly. They like to eat. After all, they're pregnant, and pregnant females everywhere like to eat. My husband is taking the twine off the bales of hay, and although cows are usually a little hesitant around humans, these heifers are totally ignoring him in their quest to chow down.

Number 138 is staring at me, just daring me to get between her and her hay. I wouldn't even think of it. She is, after all, a lot heavier than me. She's also pregnant and who knows what those hormones are doing to augment her strength. Supercow. It's the new hero comic, just wait.

Some of the heifers already have calves. Most of them were sired by semen from a black angus bull that was artificially inseminated. Therefore nearly all the calves are black.

But here's a brown one. Its dad is probably one of the "cleanup" bulls. For the number of calves being born, there are usually two bell curves. One peak is nine months after the artificial insemination, and another is nine months after the cleanup bulls were allowed in the pen with the heifers. The peak around the artificial insemination is usually more pronounced because the AI took place over just a few days, whereas the cleanup bulls did their business over a longer time period. (Did I need to put a disclaimer at the beginning of this paragraph? Sorry if I did and you are now totally disgusted learning about the intimate lives of cows.)

Back to the food. The hay bales are set on chains that rotate as the tractor drives, so the hay slowly falls off the trailer. The heifers don't want to wait for the hay to reach the ground, though, they want to eat now.

I love the expression of the cow in the back corner, the one that says "Hey, don't leave me out! I want some hay too!"

The heifers are chowing down as fast as they can, grabbing clumps of hay and chewing away. The arrival of the hay trailer is definitely a high point in their day.

As the trailer moves, some of the cows stop at the first piles of hay falling off, but many keep following the trailer. There must be something to the old adage the grass is greener on the other side...

Standing on the trailer and watching the cows, I kind of feel like we're in a long parade, with the tractor as a lead. I wonder how long the heifers will follow the trailer.

They keep coming and coming...

The little calves watch their mamas and decide they should come check out the hay too.

But then a couple get distracted and chase each other. Little calves are just the cutest! This is the biggest reason I like to go along to feed the heifers--to see the little calves.


flatbow said...

I can see your upcoming comic book hit, "Caption Obvious and His Trusty Steed, Cow Oblivious."

The Incredible Woody said...

I had no idea that there was such a thing as a "clean up" bull!!

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