As I sit to write this, it’s March 11. After weeks of getting everything done to prepare for our Bull Sale, we have two weeks to get things finished up for the Opening Day Kick-Off. Meanwhile, the heifers are calving and the babies from our first round of AI’d cows are dropping, as well. And, on top of that, we are making breeding decisions and looking for a few new herd sires that will positively impact our herd for the future. Basically, the 3 circles in a Venn diagram – selling, calving and breeding – have all converged into what often feels like the middle of a whirlwind!
The work for the Bull Sale has been done — the catalogs are finished and mailed, the videos are posted, and the ultrasound, PAP and BSE tests have all been done. But, therein lies the problem for me. I am out of things “to do,” so I just worry and second guess myself. Questions constantly roll around in my head – “That bull is so much better than that photo! I really should not have put him in the Catalog!” “Should we have mailed catalogs to all those people? Are they just going to throw them away?” “Should we have increased our advertising presence in that magazine? We haven’t gotten any phone calls, so is that just money wasted?” “We haven’t had very many people calling yet? Did they get the catalog?” This is when I find myself repeating the scripture magnet that sits on my frig – “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God.” Philippians 4:6. I spend a lot of time, reminding myself how God has taken care of for a lot more things than a Bull Sale and that helps calm the whirlwind just a little.
As far as that 2nd circle of the Diagram – calving can be the most exciting, gratifying, and nerve-wracking time of year — all at the same time. I love going out with Bill to look for new calves. I have often equated it to “Hunting for Easter Eggs!’ We calve our cows in an 8,000 acre pasture with a lot of cover and protection, so those new babies with their mamas can be just about anywhere. So, we hunt for those Easter Eggs. Finding those babies, then weighing/tagging while the mother waits nervously, is kind of exciting! It’s also the first step in knowing if we made good choices with our mating decisions the year before. Does the calf come easily? Is his/her weight acceptable? Obviously, we still want to see how they grow and develop, but a nice little, spunky calf is always a good start. Truthfully, there is nothing quite like this time of year, even when you have that heifer who needs a little help – at 10 pm, when the cold wind is cutting straight through you and you foolishly volunteered to go help Bill. But, when we finally get her in there and get that calf out, we immediately forget how goofy she was, when she goes straight to that calf and starts that mothering process. Just the memory of hearing her talk to that baby makes me smile to just think about it. It’s amazing how fast a stressful time can leave you smiling!
Of the 3 circles, I think Breeding is almost my favorite – because I feel like it’s a logical process that Bill and I work on together – often at 5:30-6:00 am, after that first cup of coffee. Our Gelbvieh registry has a cool component where we can “mate” our cows to different bulls, to see what the PROJECTED resulting EPD’s of the calves will be. Since we run 2 bulls in each pasture, we try to put 2 similar bulls (phenotype and EPD profile) together with each strategically sorted group of cows, with the goal of optimizing the offspring. I run the data, then Bill weighs in on the results, considering phenotypes and pedigrees. We use this same option to find new herd-sires to add to our genetics. I guess a good description of this part of Spring is “anticipatory.” It’s actually a little exciting to think of what “this” sire might produce with “this cow.” And when you are deciding on adding new sires, it adds the element of a little bit of a financial gamble that you are trusting will pay off in the future of your Program.
This time of year is actually kind of interesting, if you think about it. We are selling the bulls and heifers that resulted from the breeding decisions we made TWO years ago (THREE years ago, if you are considering those first calf heifers), while at the same time we are seeing the calves born that are destined to make the calves for next year’s Sale. It is an unusual time of year – stressful, exhausting, gratifying and nerve-wracking, all rolled up into the little triangle in the middle of those 3 circles –