When we first moved in our rickety old well-house had some busted up electrical sockets and all kinds of stuff would spark and certain sockets wouldn't work and others wouldn't stop working. So I had in my mind that I would fix them. Upon further introspection and open encouragement from Sweetbreads we decided to call an electrician.
Just so happens there was one right up the road. He came over and in about 15 minutes had the well house working like new and I learned a thing or two. It also turned out that he raises Highland Cattle.
A month or two after his visit we got the urge for some Highlands and I gave our electrician a call. Sure enough, he was more than willing to sell a few. You see, we're about 12 inches behind our normal 28 inches of rainfall. That's almost a 50% departure from normal. No one has grass for cows right now. He was happy to unload whatever we wanted.
The next week we paid a visit to his homestead and took a look at the cattle. He has maybe 10 cows that he keeps for enjoyment, beef, and to make use of his acreage. The cows get a lot of attention. They were friendly and relatively easy to handle, which is just what we needed. They were also 100% grassfed, so the transition to our pastures wouldn't be too difficult.
I asked about his breeding schedule and how he managed his bull and he looked a little perplexed. Silly question, "I just leave them all in there together all the time". Oh, ok, so if we get a cow there's a very high likelihood that she'll be pregnant? Yes, definitely.
Well what about that red one with the big horns?
Oh, you want my RED cow?
Yes, we would like a mix, one black and one red.
Ok, well she is definitely pregnant, she's due in the fall.
Excellent, just when the temperatures start to drop and the rain starts to fall again. Better than the middle of summer, especially with this drought.
And that's how we came upon Janis and Corrina, our furry friends. I didn't really think much of the pregnancy, that was a long way away. At the time I didn't think to ask when she had last calved or ask for an expected due date. I just figured sometime around September or October she'd start to "bag up" and we'd know that a calf was on the way. Since Highlands haven't been intensively bred for commercial production they still have some reasonably good mothering and birthing skills. Our electrician had never pulled a calf from one of his cows, and he'd had our cow (Janis) through several births.
But I got curious a few days later. When did she last calf? So I texted him.
Do you know when she last calved?
Yeah, bull calf, September 9th
Oh, so then she probably got bred on her first or second heat cycle sometime in October/November?
So that means she's probably due to calve again in July or August?
And that was that. Janis is lined up for delivery a few months earlier than expected. In fact, she could be due in a few weeks. The only thing that worries me is the extreme heat and the drought. The grass won't be lush and green for the mom or the calf, which basically means the calf will develop a little slower and maybe not get as big. The flies will be out if full force. We've heard that blowflies can get on the newborns before the momma has a chance to lick the calf clean and actually kill the calf. It's called Myiasis, or Flystrike. It's essentially a maggot infestation that occurs on the wet spots on the newborn. Needless to say, we'll be on the lookout for that.
Overall we're really excited. Janis is on some good grass now, despite the drought, and she's as healthy as ever. It will be our first birth on the farm. We'll keep you posted on her progress, so far no signs.