Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Heifer Shopping

When Hubby and I first bought this place, the irrigated ground had been planted in weedy, over-irrigated row crops, and the only improvements were run-down fences and a half-burned pumphouse. Consequently, we only brought the horses and a few pet Black Angus cows with us. The cropland is now in alfalfa and perennial grasses, the weeds are under control, and cross-fences for pasture rotation are in place. We also added the basic amenities: corrals, a barn, and a house. It’s time to rebuild our cow herd.

Since our old cows only blessed us with one heifer in three entire calf crops, and most of the old dears have gone on to cow heaven, we’ve been heifer shopping. Cattle prices have been sky high, due to high demand and short supply, so heifer acquisition is daunting to those of us who are, by nature and necessity, fiscally conservative! Naturally, we want a lot of bang for our buck: healthy, long-lived, fertile cows that live a long time, calve easily, take good care of their calves, and, most importantly, are gentle.

We like Black Angus cows for their winter hardiness, good milk production, dark skin pigmentation (their udders and eyes don’t sunburn), and superior carcass quality (aka great taste).  However, it’s not uncommon for a Black Angus mama to have grizzly-like over-protective tendencies after giving birth. For that matter, Angus bulls aren’t exactly known for their manners and decorum either. Hereford cows are great mothers but are much more gentle. When purebred Angus are crossed with purebred Herefords, nature quotes Chef Emeril Lagasse and exclaims, “Let’s kick it up a notch!” The heterozygous benefits of first-generation (F1), Angus-Hereford crossed females are proven: as a rule, they have increased longevity, higher fertility, greater health and feed efficiency, easier births, and good dispositions. They’re called “black baldies”, since the black body gene from the Angus is dominant over the red Hereford, but the white-faced gene of the Hereford is dominant over the black-faced Angus.

Long story short, we found a group of cute, healthy, well-bred, F1 black baldy heifers near Cody. Weather permitting, we’ll bring them home tomorrow—to live happily ever after!

“For every animal of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.”                                                            PSALM 50:10

1 comment: