We finished up the last of our recent cattle deals by bringing in a new bull and heifer breeding pair. The two are young and healthy Herefords, and we are hopeful that we will be seeing our first calving season in early 2023.
When the pair came home, we let them adjust in our barn overnight - they had come from a barn that was up to 50 degrees (F) which is fairly warm considering our current averages are around 10 degrees (F) and have been hitting negative temps overnight. It's important to ensure they are able to adjust gradually to the significant change in temp as they are prone to illness, such as pneumonia if they are subject to sudden temperature fluctuations such as these.
We're off to a fun start... our heifer, Petunia, couldn't help her curiosity and took down a wall (with her head) in our barn during her overnight stay at the Dirigo Ranch B&B... I can't say I was thrilled, but thankfully the small shiplap wall is fairly easy to repair in the grand scheme of things (though I'm not the one doing it so my husband my have other words to describe the scenario). Given that our barn is not suited for keeping cattle indoors, the two were moved out to the feedlot pasture with the rest of the cattle herd. In the pasture, they have access to a 4 sided shelter, and free choice water, hay, minerals, and spent grains on a regular basis.
It was a good thing we did, because I gotta say, I had never actually seen the the verb "frolic" in action until today.
We released them into the pasture - Tonka went out first - hesitantly stepping out of the trailer, unsure why he had to be loaded back into it again - he approached a round bale of hay and proceeded to practically turn himself inside out, rubbing his head and awkward, oversized, thousand-pound body all over the hay, skipping about. When Petunia joined him, off they went trotting, prancing - truly frolicking - about the pasture, making their way over to the rest of their herdmates. It was a sight to behold. Seeing them jam their big wet noses excitedly into a pile of fresh grains; sniffing out new friends. All five of them playing tag in what remained of the twilight at day's end.
In that moment, we were reminded that this is why we do what we do. For the joy of it.
We opted to go the bull route, with our new buddy, Tonka. He is gentle and calm, and a good size already at about 11 months of age. Petunia, is 7 months, and not yet fully mature. Once she reaches maturity, we'll let nature take it's course, and hope for "two pink lines" later this year. Pending all goes well, she will have a 9 month gestation.
Our eventual goal is to obtain additional Highland heifers or cows, to be cross bred with our Hereford bull. Our aim is to utilize characteristics of each breed's genetics to create an optimal beef cow, but we will begin breeding our Herefords in the meantime.
Things have been moving fast in just the first month of 2022 - we have grown substantially, and while that is exciting, there is also a significant helping of related stress. When we aren't brokering cattle deals, we're still feeding horses and goats and donkeys and chickens and our human babies... walking dogs, doing household chores, working full time jobs, and remodeling a bathroom... It feels like we're constantly rushing to get everything done. This reminded me of one of the most important lessons from working with animals - slow down.
Slow down your heart rate, your movements, your breathing. Take everything one step at a time. When we rush around any of the livestock, they react nervously and fight or flight mode sets in. When we take our time, guide them, and lead with a gentle hand, we can get them to go where they need to, without as much risk involved. We read and take trainings on so many different livestock needs, and we understand how stress can so poorly affect them - it causes illness, it can create a tough meat product or problems like "dark cutting", and can even be life threatening.
When we think about our own stress - do we value it the same? I got to thinking that we really ought to make our personal stress, and mitigating it, just as important as we find it to be for our herd members. This is definitely not easy to accomplish some days - but even when there isn't extra time for wellness activities, sometimes the most important thing to do, if only for a minute, is to slow down. Watching the cattle play allowed us that moment today.
Our goal is to ensure that our livestock enjoy their life here - in spaces where they don't feel cornered (so much so that they take walls down), and can frolic with friends, get fresh air, and feel free. Hopefully, we can remind ourselves to try to do the same in the process!
Above all else I want to extend gratitude to our many helping hands this weekend and this evening - we had a number of volunteer cowboys (and girls!) and wranglers at the ready - thank you for helping us achieve and for making it a smooth process for these special animals.
Fingers crossed this ice and below freezing temp lets up sometime soon so we can make way for Spring. Until then, we hope you'll stick around and watch the cows grow up!