Saturday morning brought with it a chance to tend to the finishing heifers. The week had been a busy one – the first third of our bulls and bullocks from Grange trials are now slaughtered and their carcases dissected. After being MIA for the week in Kepak, it was time to get a look at our heifers, and make a split. Those closest to finish were separated and will remain on silage, plus 4kg of a finishing meal. Their leaner comrades will be happy to find an extra dash of barley at the feed-face from now on. It was only when drafting was done that we noticed the obvious trend. White supremacy alive and well in Co Meath? The average age is similar in both pens. Charolais power, eh?
Now, back to my frustration. The split was done; a quiet Saturday wrapped up. What to do? A trip to the gym perhaps, or a pint with the rugby? The spring-suckler man has the life of Riley in October. The world is his lobster. Just a quick eye to throw on the eldest bull calves and mammies and…
There was a rodeo going on in the bottom field. In the middle of a dozen sweaty bull calves was cow 106 – one of the oldest in the place. Mockingly, she stood to attention like a soldier while another animal mounted her repeatedly. Our eyes met as I made my way into the field. I could tell what she was thinking:
“Look at me, bulling away in October, I bet that wasn’t part of your plan!”
As if the situation wasn’t bad enough, the cow playing jockey – a Holstein cross in her tenth year – decided it was her turn. She stood rigidly as 106 dusted herself off and hopped up for the spin. All the while, the bull calves were going mental – jumping around and chancing a ride wherever they could.
Old age, it seems, has caught up on these two cows. As I write, the AI man is en route. Their chances of holding to a service now are much greater. Back in the summer, in the midst of breeding, calves were young and thirsty. The stress of milking probably contributed to their repeatedness, particularly in the case of the Holstein-cross. Now, grass makes up the bulk of the calves’ nutrient intake, and it shows: cows are in excellent condition and elders have started to retreat north.
We’ll put them in calf to an Angus and offload them in the spring. There is no desire for a split herd around these parts. Free Saturdays are few and far between, especially now that I owe myself one.
Ah well, any takers for a pair of smashing suckler cows – autumn-calving?