Dodie, the calf that had pneumonia his first five weeks, is doing fine. For awhile we put him and his mama in the barn during storms, but for a month he's been out and handling the weather. He had a brief bout with diarrhea the day after his mother got bred, which is not unusual. Many calves go off feed temporarily when mama is in heat and being bred. Calves are often little at that time, and may not have an opportunity to nurse on schedule when their mama is being harassed by the bulls, so the milk may taste different.
This year's breeding season has gone smoothly; the bulls have been with the cows for five weeks and there's been little activity the past two weeks. All but two of the cows and heifers were observed bred, and there have been few returns.
We had one bull problem this year - a two-year-old that bred three cows and then quit, perhaps due to injury. He repeatedly mounted an in-heat cow but would not breed her, so we took him out and replaced him with another bull. This is one advantage of keeping close track of what's happening in every group; if problems occur you can deal with them before any cows get missed. Many stockmen assume it's the cow's fault if she is open or calves late, but sometimes it's the bull. Even in a multi-bull group, a dominant bull that gets tired or hurt may keep others from breeding the cows even though he himself isn't doing the job.
We'll take the bulls out in another week, before we move the cows to summer range in the mountains. We usually leave them in for only 32 days, but left them in a bit longer this year, since our son's cattle are here now and we'll be calving the cows out together. Some of his "tail enders" are still being bred.
It's amazing that those cows recovered fast enough to breed back on schedule, considering what they went through this winter. The fact they've cycled and bred is a tribute to genetics (the high fertility of these composite cows) and the good nutrition Michael and Carolyn have given them the past month after getting them out of the starvation situation they were in.
Last fall, our son and daughter-in-law went into a partnership with friends they'd been sharing equipment with for several years (doing custom haying), and moved their cowherd to the friends' ranch for calving. They planned to lease more ground and work together, since the ranch they've been on at Alder Creek had no water for irrigation and they couldn't put up hay.
They'd had a good relationship sharing machinery, but it did not work when managing cattle. The friends had a different philosophy about feeding and health care. With bad weather and a dirty environment, they had terrible scours. The kids worked 24 hours a day and managed to save all but a few of the calves. We got them moved back to Alder Creek before they lost more.
The next challenge was finding a place for them. As it turned out, they were able to lease the place next to us that we'd leased for 29 years. We vaccinated, deloused and branded their cattle last week and are now creating a homesite on our upper place where they can set up a trailer house until they can afford to build. It will be nice to watch all our grandkids grow up.