For me, regular and pleasurable contact with my herd is vitally important
yards, fortunately usually resolves with time. Those which become completely placid adults can be a problem too, if they won't go up a race and don't respond to the usual prompts.
Temperament of the cows themselves now arises only as a relative measure. A calf whose temperament was acceptable five years ago might not have made the cut now as the herd becomes ever quieter. If the cow was not able to be easily tamed, it is likely her calves may not now meet my requirements. If she produces good weaners for sale, she stays, but I will eventually replace her with a quieter animal.
Selecting for temperament last has made the process of herd improvement easier. If I'd selected for temperament as my first priority, they'd all be pets and it would be harder to accept and act upon the results of some of the objective measurement-based tests.
Calm temperament and meat tenderness have been found to be positively linked, important if someone is going to eat your animals or their progeny. The link is primarily because of the effects of animal stress on meat quality, so an animal which remains calm during human handling will nearly always make better eating than a wilder one.
Is temperament harder to adjust in a herd than conformation and growth? It all depends on where you apply the most selection pressure, the quality of the genetics you introduce and how much time you spend amongst your animals. How important it depends on how you want to interact with them. For me, regular and pleasurable contact with my herd is vitally important; it's why I do this. My safety when working closely with the animals means I'll be able to carry on for a long time.
All in all, January is a pleasant time to enjoy being around the animals without too much pressure to decide anyone's immediate fate, but time to ponder and come to terms with the decisions which will soon have to be made.
As nights go, it was complete and utter chaos. The power had gone out at about 8.30, the trees were bashing against the side of the house, and the gutter was doing a Niagara Falls look-alike. The sheer volume of water coming down wasn’t just cats and dogs, more tigers and elephants, so the spouting was hopelessly overwhelmed.
It was a bit early to go to bed. Well, to go to bed to sleep that is. And it probably wasn’t a good idea to get any other ideas as there was bound to be a callout of some description.
No doubt the power linesmen were having to don their wellies too. Some jobs just don’t go away until the sun shines. For the Vet, really bad weather usually brings on the calves.
You would think mother cows would have the sense to keep their legs crossed, but the stormy weather must trigger a release of cortisone or something. Or maybe the cows just want to lighten their load through the mud.
Because as every farmer or linesman or veterinarian knows, it doesn’t rain but it pours.
And it sure was doing that now. The weather forecasters had been talking about 120mm in 48 hours, but it felt like we were going to get that much overnight. Who knows what state the roads would be in?
We sat up by candlelight for another hour. The light was a bit dim for reading by, but the Vet shuffled a pack of cards into a game of solitaire and I fumbled my way along a few rows of knitting, largely by feel. The fire was hot and we could pretend that we might get to stay dry until morning.
Sure enough, we were just about to head to bed when the phone went. It was hard to hear in the roar of the wind and rain, and the cordless phone was dead from the power cut, so we had dragged an old landline push-button one in from the sleep-out. Even though we could hardly hear it, the flashing red light as it rang was alarm enough. “Oh dear.” We both looked at it. Finally the Vet answered. “Yep.” “Yep.” “Yep.” And he hung up. “Two cows up at John Wheeler’s. One is a head back, and one has gone down. Probably acidosis or staggers from the weather.”
The downer cow might or might not be calving yet, but she would need supplements to get her metabolism back to normal or she would die. The head back was a calving problem. In its rush to be born on the wildest night of the year, the calf had failed to get itself lined up properly, so instead of two front feet and a nose presented in the birth canal, it was just the feet. The more the cow strained, the more the calf was locked in position with its head twisted around the wrong way. It would never come out unless someone pushed it back in far enough to make space to bring the head forward. So ‘someone’ was getting his boots on. “John said he had got them both down to the yards, part of it is covered. Should be able to keep dry there if you want to come.”
Which translates as ‘please come and if you want to, you can carry buckets of vet gear and hold the torch’.
It really was a wild night. There was a steady 30 knots down in the valley but I could hear the wind up on the ridge, a full-blown gale. The trip was memorable for its limited visibility and branches and debris scattered over the road. We couldn’t break any speed records, but at least there were no slips, and no big trees blocking the way.
John was waiting in his ute by the yards with its lights playing on the back pen.
One cow was lying down and he had thrown a horse blanket over her. The second one was marching back and forth with her back arching and tail extended. She was the one trying to calve.
“Let’s get something into the downer cow first.” The Vet took her temperature, looked at her eyes and listened to her heart. She was away with the fairies and totally unresponsive.
“Calcium, probably about to calve. I’ll put a couple of bottles in the vein and then see what happens while we
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