We're very happy with our cows' mass decision to hold their babies until after we got home from our fall hike. The jury is still out on OUR decision to tag (and band, if necessary) the newborns as soon as we meet them. The cows we know all seem to slip away from the herd and our sight as the birth becomes imminent. Often, a week or more can pass before we glimpse the calf, and a few more days pass before mom and newborn are regularly together. It isn't like we have flat, open pastures where we can easily spot the calves. The ranch is steep and wooded and full of great hiding spots, so we are having a little bit of difficulty in our new plan.
In past years we just waited until everyone had calved and rejoined the herd and invited them all to a tagging and banding party. Easy. The entire herd was shuffled pen to pen into a crowding alley and then one at a time into a chute for their individual attention; vitamins, minerals, vaccines, tags, etc. Routine. But... calves that are only a few days old are more calm and less affected by the handling than their older selves would be. It is also considered more humane to band the little bulls during the first few weeks of life and the ear tags help us identify each calf as well. So, we will try to entice, cajole, seduce, or detain each newborn calf as soon as we view it.
For those of you who haven't met a newborn calf up close, they are dewy eyed, pleasant smelling, wobbly-legged emissaries of peace and love, with silky curly hair and innocence. You just want them to know that they can trust you and that you, also, believe in the possibility of world peace.
Raising calves for beef, and the goal of world peace seem to have a common difficulty.... too much testosterone. With our calves, the males receive a shiny green rubber band. (As to world peace, that is for others to decide.) This brings to a point the tradeoff with handling newborns. They are with their moms (and maybe aunts and cousins) in the open, in the woods, on the road. We must somehow gain their trust long enough to get close enough to catch and hold them to apply a tag and perhaps a band. Without mom sensing that they need defending, without the calf deciding to flee (they are WAY faster than a human by day two or three) and without any of the herd (some of whom just got this treatment) noticing that something is up. Spycraft, I think. Cowboying, Tammie says. Whatever.
We have so far successfully dealt with the first nine. Most were uneventful. One, the biggest, had to be carried and led back to his mom because he just seemed to wander aimlessly after the "treatment". Another, a female, exacted her toll for allowing the placement of an earring by kicking with a strike like a cobra. Tammie's jaw still works, just not without pain. So, we will see how this latest twist works out.
On the plus side, after the first week all of the calves have been treated, and all are still acting like the friendly, curious babies that we met.