This year's calving season is running later than usual. Most of the time, all our babies have arrived before the leaves start to turn. We bred back more heifers this year though, which makes for a less predictable calving schedule as the young mothers do not re-impregnate as readily after calving.
There are several things we could do to make this less of an issue. We could more carefully insert and remove the bull so that we would have a more specific idea of when our cows conceive. We could also remove the calves sooner from their mothers. With the market so far off productive this year though, we have actually been just as happy not to have the females breed back, so thus far we have kept our herd all together in one pasture- bull, cows, yearling calves, and now new babies.
This has given us the chance to see what natural herd behavior looks like. We find our big herd sire- Time Bandit runs a tight ship. While there is plenty of horsing around and rough-housing, there is no fighting. And we have two two year old bulls in that pasture also. They have grown up there and for the brief time we seperated them, these two were unhappy and started fence jumping to get back into the main pasture.
Everyone defers to Big Daddy and Africa, his herd queen. I have been amazed at how much Time Bandit has to do with the calves. They usually stay fairly close to him- frequently laying up on him, he grooms them regularly, and at the sign of any threat, the youngsters all flock to him. At this point he has more to do with them than their mothers do.
If we pen the calves to work them, Bandit paces about outside the arena, bellowing and fussing until we give him his kids back. He checks each one over to make sure it is unhurt. This degree of paternal care has surprised me. So much of our animal handing is disruptive to the normal behavior for the species concerned.
Watching this bull-calf interaction has made me contemplate other aspects of our animal handling to look for ways we unnecessarily disrupt natural relationships. Our animals are happiest and easiest to work when we follow natural herd dynamics as much as possible. So this has become the 4B way.