Life of a Ranch Wife

(Photo by Lanna Mills)

By Lanna Mills

As cattle raisers, our goal is to produce healthy calves. The objective is to have cows that carry the calf to term, have no trouble calving, have a healthy live calf, give plenty of milk to ensure the calf gets all the nutrition needed and breeds back quickly. Ideally, this cycle would continue again and again. However, things don’t always go as we plan. There are many circumstances that can arise and change everything. When they do, we must deal with the problem.

Sometimes cows don’t breed back or are late breeding back. This may be caused by various factors including nutrition, environment, genetics, age or the bull being bred to. Some cows breed back as they should but pregnancy loss occurs. This is often caused by infections, nutritional deficiency, genetics and stress. It’s said that six to 10 percent of beef calves die during or shortly after birth. When these events occur, we are left with two choices: we keep the cow and give her a second chance or she is sold.

Sometimes the cow carries the calf to term, has a live calf, and then something occurs during or after birth causing the calf to be orphaned. This can happen if the cow has trouble calving and develops nerve damage and cannot get up, or if she develops infection after birth. Some cattle, mainly heifers, will have a viable calf but doesn’t claim it. Some cows claim the calf, but the calf is unable to suck due to the teats being too large. Many calves are orphaned in dairies when the calves are taken from the cows so that the milk produced may be collected for human consumption. Whatever the situation, the calf cannot survive on its own.

Pick up the July issue to read more!