A Cowboy’s Faith: More calves to market

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“You need to do a story about Bill’s cowherd; he has a 104 percent calf crop this year.”

Nearly 40 years ago another horse breeder friend stopped by and commented about his Chase County neighbor rancher’s cattle operation.

A visit to the cowman’s place verified sure enough it was a great year to be raising calves. He had 78 baby calves nursing the 75 cows in his herd. Another neighbor high school math teacher verified that figured out to exactly 104 percent.

Such successes don’t set records and aren’t completely unheard of, but a 100 percent calf crop is every herdsman’s goal. Some achieve it, certain ones quite frequently, but to wean one calf out of every cow every year is uncommon.

To exceed that one calf per cow number obviously means some cows went above and beyond natural expectations and duties. In Bill’s herd that time, three cows had twins and the remainder of the herd count each raised one baby.

Twins aren’t completely uncommon in beef herds with certain breeds known for having higher percentage of twins. Likewise specific bloodlines are more prone to give multiple births.

If a cow has twins once, likelihood of her doing it again increases. Her daughters and granddaughters seem to have increased probability of having more than one calf, too.

Many issues can come into the equation as well. If she has two babies, will the momma claim and raise them both? Will heifer twins both reproduce? If one’s a bull and the other a heifer, will one be fertile, the other sterile, which is which?

There’s research and various philosophies for the correct answers. Certain cowmen are inclined to always keep a twin for continuation of a line and others disperse such without consideration.

Triplet calves are another story and not unheard about but quite infrequent. “More trouble than they’re worth” is common cowmen’s feeling when three newborns are found with a momma just completed birthing. Issues of twining cows are further expanded when there’s another calf.

It’s calving time throughout the Flint Hills, with cowmen’s added hours seeking that 100 percent calf crop. While the cow is responsible for having her calf, owners have added duties too increased by nature’s often rude elements.

Reminded of Deuteronomy 7:14: “He promised blessings of calves from your herds.”


030615-franksmug2Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a radio marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.


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