Getting all of the cows in our little dairy bred in a timely way has always been a bit of a challenge for us. The key to the process is the consistent detection of cows in standing heat, which usually means spending some time watching the cows around morning and evening chores to see how everyone is behaving. Cows come into heat about every twenty days, and we know they’re doing so when they start messing with the other cows. They become very interested in what everyone else’s back end smells like, and when a cow truly comes into heat, all the other cows will be fascinated by her back end, and the cow will stand still while other cows mount her. When we see a cow in standing heat, we know we have eight to twelve hours to get her bred. Bradley does most of our breeding here, and he is always on call and available when we see a cow in heat. A cow’s pregnancy lasts about 280 days, or close to ten months, so breeding this year determines the course of next year’s calving and milk production. We usually start breeding some
time in July, and breed through the summer, fall and most of the winter, depending on how we do. Our goal is to have a consistent supply of milk throughout the year, so we need spread the breeding out to a certain extent to make sure we have enough cows in milk in all seasons. A cow bred in July will deliver her calf the following April, just before our grazing season starts. A cow bred in January will deliver her calf in October, just at the end of our grazing season. We try to avoid having calves born in the really cold weather of winter, so we try to get all of the cows bred between July and January. Some cows have regular heats that we can predict pretty accurately every twenty days or so, demonstrate clear signs of being in heat, and breed back pretty easily. Some cows, on the other hand, seem to have irregular heats, or fail to exhibit clear signs that they are in heat, and we always have trouble getting these cows bred in a timely way.
We bought Daisy from Misty Brooke Farm six or seven years ago when we needed to restock and renew our dairy herd, and she has been a strong milker for us ever since. Despite being a great milk cow though, Daisy has always given us trouble when it came time to
breed her. Her last calf was a heifer delivered in 2016, and she did not breed last year. I thought that we had her bred successfully, but when the vet came out and found that she was not bred, it was too late in the season to breed her. Between her erratic heat pattern and lack of standing heat exhibition, we could not seem to get her bred again this breeding season, and she went into the winter still open. Although we are pretty lax in terms of shipping off cows that don’t breed, we cannot justify keeping a cow on the farm that does not breed for two years. We consulted our vet, and worked with him to develop a program to give Daisy her best chance to breed here in January, with the recognition that this would be her last chance to breed. We looked back at her heat history, did our best to predict when we thought she should have been coming into heat, and used those dates to time our treatments. Two weeks ago she got a CIDR (intervaginal progresterone insert), and we
followed that with two further hormone injections a few days apart, and finally a third and different injection, and breeding, about ten days ago. I am satisfied that we did just about everything that we could here to give Daisy her best chance to successfully breed, and now we’re just waiting a few more weeks until we can do an ultrasound to see if she’s pregnant.
This was a full week of firewood production out at this year’s firewood yard, and the work site and routine has been ironed out for efficient and safe production. The piles of split wood are growing, and the smoke of the burn piles is a constant reminder of the work of this winter season.