For details and pictures showing how we work and haul, check out my previous blog posts: “Bon Voyage Until Next Spring” from Nov. 29, 2013 and “The Main Event: Cattle Working and Hauling” from Nov. 24, 2015.
Our winter residents include:
- Eleven replacement heifers (see below);
- Chubby and her twins, Heckle and Jeckle (“Our Mama was a Bargain Basement Cow” posted Sept. 17, 2016);
- One-Toe, our amputee with only a half-hoof on her right rear leg, and her calf, Four Toes;
- First Calf Heifer #407 and two cows, #27-1 and #204, who all calved late;
- Miracle, Director of the Orphanage and companion to Mosey, our orphan and bottle calf (“Mama Miracle” posted Sept. 23, 2016). Compare this picture with those in the “Mama Miracle” post.
- One virgin bull
Yes, our latest bull acquisition is a virgin. Or, at least he was for about eight hours after he was released into the pasture with the replacement heifers. He's a “heifer” or “calving-ease” bull: a young bull with the genetics to sire smaller birth weight calves that will gain quickly. Also, first-calf heifers are less likely to experience birthing difficulties that require human intervention to pull the calf.
We Made the Cut
Welcome to our herd, ladies!
Another Legend Leaves the Hilbert Herd
When the ten Boomer Sooner Bovines were delivered and unloaded in the small corral pasture, four of them immediately threw up their heads and stampeded to the far end. The truck driver, also the trader’s brother, assured Bill they would settle down. Bill was doubtful; in fact, his thoughts were more along the line of “Gentle down, my a**!”
All ten cows calved and most did eventually “gentle down” to some extent. Two did not and, as soon as Bill could coax them back into the corral, they and their calves took a ride to the sale barn.
Cow #170 was one of the four who fled to the far end of the pasture. We used our old standby attitude adjusters, range cubes, to coax her to trust us. She loved those treats and eventually would eat them out of our hands. What a turn-around! She still maintained an arrogant demeanor so Bill named her “Proud Mary” because, as he said, “She holds her head up high like she is really proud.” The song of the same name by Creedence Clearwater Revival is also one of his favorites.
The name inspired future CCR song title names in our herd. That fall, I named Proud Mary’s heifer calf Creedence. Others followed: Fogerty for lead singer John Fogerty, Miss Molly and Suzy Q; and, in a nod to their version, Ike and Tina, as in Turner.
Proud Mary had a distinctive personality and although she was tame around us, her body language could come off as downright unfriendly! One of the landowners of a pasture we rent loved our cow, Sweet Pea, and would stand at the fence and feed her range cubes. Bill told her she could also feed Proud Mary, but the gal said, “She’s scary! If I step outside the house and she’s nearby, she tosses her head up and glares at me!” I’ve described Proud Mary’s expression as “sinister,” because of her facial markings and body language. When she tosses up her head and ears, she’s “on alert” and doesn't miss much.
Proud Mary was also a herd leader and protector. Bill kept a watchful eye on her when he tagged a newborn calf; not just hers, but any cow’s calf in the same pasture. If the calf squalled, Proud Mary charged to the rescue and brought reinforcements!
We kept Creedence as a replacement heifer and she’s still with us. Miss Molly, born in 2014, had her first calf this year. They, and perhaps their future heifers, will continue Proud Mary’s legacy of raising great calves.
Creedence and her calf, born this fall.
Proud Mary and a scrawny-looking Miss Mollie from Fall, 2014
Miss Molly, a well filled-out new mama, and her first calf, born this fall.
Proud Mary didn’t birth a calf this fall. She either didn’t get bred or didn’t stay bred. Because of her age, around ten or eleven years old, her unfortunate destiny was to be culled from our herd. She was one of our favorites, but that’s the reality in a cattle operation.
The evening prior to her departure, I fed her a big handful of range cubes—we usually ration out two or three at a time—and said good-bye. The next morning, I watched from a window as Bill headed out the driveway with Proud Mary in the stock trailer. She was standing backwards in the trailer, as though she was taking her last look at her home for the past eight years. I waved as a couple of tears trailed down my cheeks.