Ranch Baby was the first baby to be born on the ranch (well not literally born here, but you get my drift) since The Rancher came on the scene in 1978. But that doesn’t mean we are lacking babies around here!
New baby calves are the lifeblood of a ranch. And did you know? They are frickin’ adorable! Having my druthers, the internet would have less cat photos, and more calf photos. But that’s just me.
But let’s rewind a bit and take this from the top. The ranch is known as a “cow-calf operation”, meaning we keep a herd of cows that are each bred to give birth to a calf once a year. The gestational period of a cow is the same as ours, making the mother cows preggo for about nine months. The cows are kept and cared for here, year after year until they are no longer viable mothers due to issues with age or health or perhaps following a birthing event with extreme complications.
The calves on the other hand are the marketable “crop” of the ranch. The calves grow, nurse their mothers, graze and hang out here until they are weaned at about a year, give or take, at which time they are sold or the ranch retains ownership, but either way they head to a feed yard. At the feed yard, they are gradually introduced to new feed sources in addition to the forages they are used to. The feeding regimen allows them to reach the customary weight of around 1,100 to 1,250 pounds, at give or take 20 months of age. At that point they are ready to be transported to the packing plant to enter the beef supply.
That was the Beef 101 version, so at any time feel free to pose a question in the comment section below. No questions are off limits, or stupid. And if a jerky internet person makes fun of you for asking a question, I will virtually punt them off the blog. Because I can.
Back to the topic at hand. As I’ve mentioned before, half of our cows have their babies in the Fall, and half in the Spring. This post is a little premature, because there are only about a half dozen calves be-bopping around so far. They were a little early because a breeding bull (the other essential element to this cow-calf operation) decided that a fence was just a suggestion, and he didn’t get the memo about these cows being FALL cows. These things happen. Then calves happen and life goes on. Next month, the rest of the regularly scheduled calving will occur.
I’ve always found mother cows pretty amazing. There are a lot of reasons why, too many for one blog post. After being around cattle my entire life, I’ve recently discovered a new appreciation for mother cows, and these two photos sum it up:
I feel you, sister.
Other ranchers in Washington are further along on the calving train right now, so I am excited to bring you those updates in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, here are some internet accounts of calving across the country:
Confessions of a Farm Wife: A method to the madness A guest post by Farmer Joe himself that explains Spring calving season on their operation in Farmington, Illinios in depth
Beef Matters (A Glimpse of Life on a Working Cattle Ranch): Game Changer This is a rewind to the Fall 2012 calving season when this Idaho ranch family took on Fall calving for the first time, with first-time mothers (heifers)
Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch: Just hitchin a ride Rancher/Mom Debbie Lyons-Blythe shows and tells when and how ranchers sometimes need to assist mother cows and calves