– Calves as Christmas Presents? –
– A Quick Fertility Lesson-

Merry Christmas from the Coos!

a black Highland bull wearing Christmas garlands hanging from horns

Farm Visits Update

COVID, what can I say? It is still here, it is still dangerous, and it isn’t going away. We are anxious for the availability of a vaccine and will certainly be taking it as soon as possible so we can feel safer. Meantime, as long as guests will wear masks and maintain distance for our protection, we are open for visitors. We will also don our masks and maintain our 6 ft. for your safety.

a silver highland calf relatively rare color

Calves as Christmas Presents?

CALVES ARE SOOOO MUCH FUN, but they are not Christmas presents! Repeat: Highland calves are NOT Christmas presents!

They are not minis, they grow up to be big cows. Highlands are smaller at birth and grow slowly, but they grow into 800-1800 pound cows or bulls. They also make a lot of poo – an adult cow produces 50-80 pounds of poo every day.

cartoon of dairy cow pooping

They need hay, minerals, water that is not frozen, other cows to live with, good fencing, 2 acres of pasture each or supplemental hay, attention and so on. If you don’t have all that… please don’t get a calf.

They are expensive to keep. Just like puppies that are so exciting to get as Christmas gifts, the new wears off. It is so sad to see the neglected state of cute little calves that were purchased by people who do not know how to care for cattle. Instead, arrange a visit to a Highland farm for that special person that loves baby calves.

This year has been our best calving year yet! With at least 6 more (possibly 8) to go before the end of the season, we have an even mix of beautiful calves… 8 bulls, and 8 heifers.

We were blessed with 6 from Fergus, 7 from Magic, and 3 from Ferrell. That gave us a rainbow of colors. Here are a few of the pasture snaps:

yellow and white highland calves in the pasture two highland calves playing in the field red highland bull calf in the pasture a black highland calf standing by the fence

Quick Fertility Lesson

It is the beginning of breeding season for those fall calves for next year! I’ve heard several stories about disappointing calving in a season where few or no calves are born.

Reasons vary, but are often because the bulls were not fertility checked by a vet before they were put in with the cows. Some think this is an unnecessary expense, but what is the cost of a year without calves? Sadly, I know of people who were aware that the bull they had was infertile and instead of harvesting, they passed it on to someone who is just getting started and didn’t know to have.

Even proven bulls can develop problems that will lead to infertility. Caught early, many problems can often be corrected.

Highland cow named Rockhouse Katherine with her calf

Here are just a few of the more common problems that can cause low pregnancy rates in your cows:

1. The weather, Too hot? Heat stress can cause infertility. — Provide shade and running water, or just simply wait until the weather cools off. Too cold? A bull can suffer scrotal frostbite which causes inflammation and decreases sperm production.

Don’t expect a good conception rate if the temps are below zero at night and don’t reach above freezing during the day. Provide shelter, wind breaks, hay for bedding so he doesn’t just lie on frozen ground, and just wait till it warms up a bit.

two highland cows sitting on hay bedding in snowy pasture

2. Nutrition. Grass fed is the goal of many, but the most common pasture grass is Fescue which can cause the fertility rate to drop in both bulls and cows. We are told to help by adding clover to the pastures. The cows may love that, but too many legumes can cause mild bloat that will decrease fertility as well. We do our breeding in January – April and feed high quality grass hay that has been tested for a protein rate of 15%+. Also, minerals are an important supplement. Check with your local extension agent for the best mineral supplement in your area. It will vary with the seasons.

3. Another common problem, but easy fix for Highlands is a penile hair ring. If you have your bull(s) vet checked before putting them in for breeding, specifically ask that they check for this. Bulls with hair rings that go undetected can be ruined permanently. Paula Walker was kind enough to share a photo of a small hair ring she discovered on one of her bulls. Caught early, the ring can be removed with no lasting effect. They can be smaller and tighter, however, and cause permanent damage if not detected. So, crawl down under those boys and check if you aren’t taking them to the vet for a fertility evaluation! For additional information, visit this site.

penile hair ring taken off Highland bull

4. Lameness. If a bull’s back feet hurt, he is not likely to be inclined to put all his weight on them to mount a cow. If a cow’s feet hurt, she likely will not accept the added weight of a bull mounting her. Monitor their movements. You can tell if hips, knees or feet are sore. Probably the most common reason to harvest an older cow is bad hips. Cows get arthritis as they age. With Highlands, even older cows, (12-15 +) produce great cuts of meat. Roasts and steaks are still good. The secret to good, tender beef from an older cow is 30-45 days hanging.

5. Finally, diseases. There are a few really nasty STD’s among the bovine population. Two of the most common are: trichomoniasis and BVD (Bovine Viral Diarrhea) Before purchasing a bull, be sure to ask for a negative Trich test. Most responsible auctions now require BVD tests for all cows, but even if you buy from a reputable breeder, it is a good idea to quarantine cows and have a BVD test on them before adding them to your herd.

Highland cow wearing face mask in COVID times

Heather wants me to remind you to stay safe out there! Wear your mask, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, decontaminate everything you buy before taking it into your home. Unfortunately, this isn’t over yet. Praying that the arrival of the first vaccines, we will begin to win the war against this horrid virus.


Share This