After a fire goes through, there is so much to do. Finding stock that’s wandered, making sure you have everyone in one piece, buying in hay to feed them because all the pasture is gone, and figuring out where to put everyone because the paddock fences are destroyed.
After the spot fires were out and there was no danger of the embers causing another disaster, we started to look for our animals. Incredibly, we found them all and most were unharmed. Everyone had cut their fences and the cattle had congregated together in a neighbour’s paddock. There were hundreds of cows there. And the odd bull.
And so, about 9 months later, we now have three new calves. If we do the maths backwards, it seems that our Saler bull was the sire for one, and the neighbour’s Angus bull is probably the sire of the others. As they grow we’ll keep a close eye on their characteristics and structure to see if our calculations are correct. Angus cows are much stockier animals, whereas the Salers are broad and tall.
We hadn’t intended to join these girls as we thought they were too young. It’s recommended that cows weigh 275-300 kgs before joining. That’s usually at about two years old. Our heifers were only 15 months old.
Aside from difficulty calving (the first heifer calved beautifully, but the second had a very tough time and we called the vet out), there are challenges in their mothering abilities. Younger heifers are more likely to neglect their offspring than older cows. This is related to calving difficulties, but no-one knows what other factors affect mothering instinct. It seems to vary from breed to breed and indeed, from animal to animal.
We’re doing the best we can to encourage the heifers to let their young suckle. But they can be very stubborn! One mum is not feeding well – she doesn’t seem to be able to produce enough milk to keep up with her boy. We’re treating them as teenage mums, and hoping that with the right support and a bit of encouragement they’ll be able to look after their young properly.