It has been a busy month at Triple Creek with our calving season which started October 16. We started with the heifers that were synchronized and bred AI for the 4th time last year. I have been resistant to using AI in the past because I thought it was a lot of effort for the benefit, but what I didn’t realize is that it would save me so much time at calving. We synchronized using the 14-day CIDR program which has worked well for us in recent years. We bred 25 heifers and ended up with 17 bred AI. I put the clean up bull in when I saw several nice heifers in heat 21 days after the AI date, and 3 were bred then. We ended up with 20 live calves. We had two easy pulls, but other than that no problems at all. The AI calves started 10 days ahead of schedule and the 17th one calved the day before they were due!
We started out fast with the mature herd, but two weeks into the breeding season both bulls with that group were injured. I put a replacement bull in after a week, so we had a lull in calving. It was reassuring today when I tagged 5 new ones in that group with many others springing heavy. I am sure glad I had that spare bull ready to go last January! At this point we are at a total of 76 of 106 calves expected, 24 days into calving. We have lost only one so it is shaping up to be a very good year for us. We have limited the herd’s access to toxic fescue the last 60 days to prevent agalactia and weak calves which has been a problem for us in the past. It looks like all the cows have good milk and strong calves this year!
I really enjoy giving the mature cow herd a strip of grass and then walking through them to tag the new calves. Usually the cows with new calves stay on the last strip of grass, making them easy to find. The cows are really used to being close to me, so most of them allow me to tag their babies with no fuss. In most cases I can tag the calves without any restraint at all, and I rarely have to give chase. We have culled aggressively for temperament and will not keep a cow that will not allow us to tag their calves. There was a time when our cows were not as easy to handle. After years of being moved frequently they associate me with mostly good things like getting a new allocation of grass, so now they are very easy to deal with.
My colleague and friend Johnny Rogers and his spouse Sharon farm close to us. We frequently ask each other why we do what we do. Raising livestock is not the most profitable thing we could do with our time, it can be quite stressful and it is a lot of physical work. For me it becomes clear on a nice day in October when all the effort choosing bulls, developing heifers, having a strong health program, managing body condition, training to electric fence, mitigating the effects of toxic fescue, and the myriad other management practices we do all come together in that newborn calf. In less than one hour the calf goes from inside its mother to standing at her side nursing the life giving colostrum that will provide the calf protection from disease. It is truly a miracle. To me that calf represents the fruit of all my efforts, and the promise of continued improvement to come.
As you work to improve your farm or ranch, take time to spend on the ground with the animals. Developing a close relationship where they trust you will lead to so many great outcomes. It is important to adopt appropriate technology to help you along with way, including doing all you can to improve both the animals and plants present on your farm. Learning to combine all the aspects of management as you adapt to changing conditions is the key to successfully managing a grazing system. Along the way make sure you stop, study and appreciate the miracle of life. In the end it is why we do what we do.
~ Matt Poore, NC State and Chair of the Alliance for Grassland Renewal
The Alliance for Grassland Renewal is a national organization focused on enhancing the appropriate adoption of novel endophyte tall fescue technology through education, incentives, self-regulation and promotion. For more resources or to learn more about the Alliance for Grassland Renewal, go to www.grasslandrenewal.org