This week we assessed the cow herd.
We "palpated" cows, fixed eartags, vaccinated all, castrated bull calves, and dehorned calves needing such. We worked about 150 head, requiring four hours of time from seven people. It was quite a process. Being that close to such large animals is transporting. You feel their immense power of body and soul. You can touch them, which they won't let you do in the field, and look into their eyes.
It is essential to have facilities that are stout enough to keep handlers safe, while also providing natural flow so cows are willing to proceed through the system. We had two men bringing stock forward, two working the headgate and vaccinating, the vet did palpating and castrating, another was the scribe, and the last monitored stock and directed them to designated lots. This effort represented a lot of people-hours, but we only need such a crew once a year. The rest of the time only one or two people will suffice.
Our conception rate was 88%, which is lower than we would like, but still acceptable. We give cows two cycles to breed, and then pull bulls from the herd. Most managers allow two or three times that amount of time for breeding, but we want calves to be clustered in age, so we can stay focused on as few management issues, as possible, at one time. We slow down movement of the herd during calving, but then speed up again, so calves need to be able to keep pace. We don't want to deal with newborn calves when it is time to move forward. The narrow calving window places a premium on fertile cows, which in the long run is beneficial. One thing we did not do this past year was tests bulls for fertility. If bulls are "shooting blanks", that certainly affects conception rates, and is not the fault of cows. The bulls will be under greater scrutiny in the year ahead!
Below is the headgate and sqeeze chute through which all beeves pass. One can't effectively manage cattle without such structures.
We recently celebrated the dawn of spring by cooking a rack of lamb. We were reminded yet again how tender and exquisite that meat is - not unlike wild-caught fish. The bone of the rack is pre-cut so the chops can be cooked separately, as we did here.
Ewes will be lambing in several weeks, and the cycle of birth and growth of lamb begins again, which we celebrate.
We will see you at Hyde Park this Sunday.
As we all take stock to prepare for the growing season ahead, may we be grateful for the burst of spring that energizes our lives every year.
Drausin & Susan