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  (Fort Walton Beach, Florida)
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Big Daddy

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.


Racing Like the Wind!

AH..... Sunday afternoon.  My secret vice- movies on Lifetime Movie Channel.  Yesterday I was in the middle of a nice, juicy one when my husband came rushing in and yelled, "Baroness got out when I was feeding them and she's running wild, and won't come back in for me!"  Red Baroness or "Nessa" is our herd queen, a four year old daughter of Spotted Fever. A big high horned, 1000 pound Brangus Page cow.

 I pulled on a jacket and some boots and ran outside to find Dan in the drive with a grain bucket lure, and Nessa ignoring him and visiting the back pasture cattle through the fence.  Kisses all around and some special nuzzling for her two sons, Time Bandit and Sirroco.  She hadn't seen Time Bandit since he was 6 months old and weaned.  Bandit had been at Creek Bend Ranch in Ohio till this past September, and when we brought him home Nessa was gone being bred in Big Rapids.  What a happy reunion!

Gathering up the grain bucket, I started calling Nessa and she, good girl that she is came running.  At full tilt right down the frozen two track.  She came racing up to the car park and I thought my Chevy was going to be toast but that gal can stop on a dime.  She peered in the car windows then turned and took off again.

This went on for about 20 more minutes.  Nessa zoomed up and down the driveway, bucking and snorting as she passed her herd on the other side of the fence.  She squeezed past the truck and partied in the road for awhile.  Nessa is about 7 months pregnant now and showing. It was something to see her charging back and forth, front legs spread wide to maintain control and support that great swinging belly on the snow and ice, comparatively little backside tucked tight underneath so she could buck.

She was breathing hard at this point and her breath was freezing and grizzling her whole face with ice. Then she sauntered up to me for a pat and we slipped back into the front pasture, exercise and visiting done.  She poked her head into the grain bucket ready to have a snack and reunion with her herd. That's my girl!



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