Making the Hard Calls


The hard decisions...the culling. It is a vital part of any breeding program. However, sometimes it is never a fun thing especially when you are attached to one that happens to make that list. The list at Shamrock Acres is generally very short to nonexistent, but this year one of my cows is on it. We've got some history.

Ava and I go back all the way to day one of her life, 3 years ago. She was born on a cold January morning, and being in Michigan we weren't quite ready for a calf. She was more of a surprise than anything. I was off at a bridal show (worst things ever) when we got a call saying that the calf needed help or she wasn't going to make it. My mom and I rushed home to try and save the little red beauty. She was cold and weak. She needed that warmth in her belly as soon as possible. While my parents know how to tube feed, they aren't as comfortable with it as I am so they wanted me to do it. If it goes wrong, it goes VERY wrong and within minutes you've got a dead animal. NOT what we were going for!

Anyway~

I tubed Ava's belly full of warm milk and a short time later she was perking up and gaining strength. We kept her and her mom Wilma in the barn so we could watch her closely and give her a little extra attention. She quickly stole my heart. I began halter training her at about a month old. We went for walks out in the snow and she stuck out like a sore thumb against that bright white snow.

As soon as I felt those little horn buds she was dehorned with an electric dehorning iron and tattooed at the same time. Unlike all the other heifers we've dehorned, Ava has a pretty head because her horns weren't scooped by the vet. Scooping tends to make more of a squared head.

Ever since she was a calf we've been buddies. She's a cow you have to physically move when you are out in the pastures. She'll do almost anything for a treat.

Her first calf~

I was BEYOND excited to go out a do calf checks one night last year to find her cleaning on a little black bull calf. There was a slight problem though, she wanted to clean him so bad that she wouldn't let him eat! She would kinda freak out and kick at him. I decided to get in there and help the poor boy. She hauled off and kicked me so hard! I had a hoofprint on my leg for months and after the bruise finally went away, I had an indentation from where the cells had died from impact. Ouch. After a day or so, Ava warmed up to this new little critter that called her mom and all was good.

The Evaluation~

After watching Ava for a while after calving, we started to notice she had a hitch in her walk. She would swing a back leg around. I think it happened either during breeding or calving, but the jury is still out on that one. I hoped that with time things would heal. We decided to try and breed her again. She hung out with the bull for almost 6 months. Last November we had her preg checked-open. That was like a punch to the gut. The fall mud and the early winter snows had been really hard on her. We then decided to keep her in the barn and put some weight and see if keeping her confined would help. She went back out with the bull early this spring, and nothing. Again.

The Hard Call~

As much as I love that red cow, you can tell that walking causes her some pain. That hitch never went away. Also being open again means we lost over a year in feed to her. Unfortunately she will be beef this fall. My parents will put her in the freezer... I have decided that I can't eat that poor soul. I'll instead have beef from our steer Chief who decided to kick me the last time I was in his pen... karma. HA.

Moral of this long story.... Culling is hard. Sometimes it for the best of the animal, especially in Ava's case. I love that cow and I will miss her. She greets me every time. We've had our struggles but we've also had our share of victories.

Take my advice, don't keep a cow around because she's your favorite. It may not be the right choice for you or the cow.

Until next time...

#calves #culling #hardchoices

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Shamrock Acres Dexter Cattle

Hudsonville, MI

shamrockacres@hotmail.com

(616) 875-7494