100% or above calving percentage through four fall calving seasons, but it has not been without some work on my part. I don’t want to overstate my contribution, as a good herd of cows will wean 90% without any effort from their farmer, but that last 10% usually requires some effort. 100% calving percentage means every cow has a live calf and raises it to weaning. 90% means 9 out of 10 cows wean a calf, etc.
The first two fall calving seasons I did absolutely nothing and the cows weaned 100%, but I had a feeling I was using up my luck. The most recent two have had problems, including death loss, but twins have made up for the losses.
This season started with a small calf born dead out of my oldest cow, 465, who has been in photos on my blog. It was most likely born early, but it looked fully developed. I’m going to sell the cow, because she doesn’t have a chance to contribute anything until next fall, and she’s eleven years old.
Had a few live calves and then one morning I checked and a cow, 612, was with two calves, but as the sun rose she started walking away from where she spent the night and calling to her calves. They both tried to follow, but I could see she was only concerned with one of them, and that has been our experience in the past.
So I called my Dad to come with his ATV and help me get the cow into the pen by the barn. I picked up the calf that was being abandoned and carried it in on the ATV. With patience we were able to walk the cow and calf into the pen also.
Something didn’t look quite right, as there was a large difference in size between the two calves. I checked the other cows and 8110 had a small new calf with her. I conferred with my Dad and realized what had happened, something out of the ordinary, but something we had seen before.
8110 had twin calves in the night. 612 was in labor and her maternal hormones were kicking in. She “claimed” one of the twins as her own and probably let it nurse. She then had her own calf. 8110 walked off with one calf by the time I checked them and found 612 with one of the twins and her own, larger calf. It also helped my diagnosis that I knew 8110 had twins the year before. There is a genetic component to twinning.
At this point, it had been enough trouble getting 612 into the pen that I was willing to let her nurse both calves if she would let them. The larger calf was strong enough, and 612 was calm enough, that I was able to push the calf in the right direction and he started nursing. 612 quickly began to claim both calves, so I decided she would get to nurse two calves and kept them isolated for a few weeks so that there was no chance of one of the calves being separated.
I have nine fall litters doing very well. The weather has cooperated for the most part. There is no sign of the piglet scours which plagued my herd last summer. As I hoped, I believe my herd has developed immunity to the disease.