Friday, December 17, 2010

My Favorite Heifer is Open...

The other day on Facebook I posted this in my status:

My favorite heifer came up open... what to do, what to do... :(

After I posted it, I realized from the responses that not everyone knows what that means. In came the responses...

Michelle: It is obvious I'm not a rancher because I have no idea what this means either....and I probably don't wanna!! ; )

Anji: I don't get it...

Michelle: good, that means I'm not the only one ; )

Anji: lol

Dave: You know what to do. Paint an O on her hip and put her in the shipping pen....

Nancy: Sale barn my dad would say. :(

Mick: what you had no clean up bull, time to sale

Lance: Sell her...

Lori: we have the one strike and your out program, no matter what. Cattle work for you..if she doesn't raise a calf, you work for her

Kim: What does that mean? Someone please enlighten me.

Anji: still don't get it...

Sarah: For those that don't know what "open" means: If a cow is open it means she isn't pregnant. Most producers sell any open cows (or goats) because they haven't contributed to the herd and will just eat for a whole year before they have another chance at pregnancy. It is hard when the cow (or doe) is a favorite, we want to keep them for sentimental reasons. :(

Anji: Thanks. How depressing.

So let me break this down for you non-cattle (or non-livestock) people.

The weather was gorgeous on Monday so Dan the Man called the vet hoping he could get them to come out here on Tuesday to preg check the heifers.

preg check: short for pregnancy check
heifer: a young cow before she has had her first calf.

Of course they, the vets, were busy and could not come until Wednesday morning.

Wednesday morning came and so did the vet along with the cold, wet rain and snow. Mind you, not the small pretty flakes that glisten in the sun, but the big, fat "wet as cow snot" flakes that stick to your glasses and somehow manage to find their way past your glasses and straight into your eye. Yes, that kind of snow, naturally since we had to work outside...

So we gathered up all the heifers and moved them through the alley, into the tub and through the chute. Then one-by-one the vet enters through the palpation cage and examines the cow while she (the cow not the vet) is secure in the headcatch.

Alley, tub, chute, palpation cage: names for various sections of the corral that the cattle are moved through when you are working with them. "Working" as in doctoring, sorting, loading, etc. not "sealing the deal" or making business arrangements with!

No Michelle, this is not the part where the cow pees on a stick...

Before the vet starts she dons a pair of very fashionable rubber gloves that go clear to her shoulder and have elastic to keep them firmly in place. She (the vet and the cow) certainly don't want the gloves to come off during the examination. Okay, this is going to get a little messy so you can either stop reading or continue, but don't say I didn't warn you. Cattle business is a messy business. I have learned it is not for the faint of heart or for lily-livered folks. And it is especially not for people with weak-stomachs! Namby-pambies or cream puffs need not apply!

Okay, so the vet gingerly positions herself behind the cow and gently inserts her arm, yes, I said arm, not just hand, into the cows birth canal and it's a looooong way to the uterus. Did I say this was a messy job? The vet has to literally clean out the birth canal which is usually full of what ever the cow has been eating... uh, need I say more? So out comes hands full of stuff which has to be cleared before the hand can go any further. I hope you didn't just get done eating...

Well, I'm not a vet so I can't tell you exactly what they feel when they are feeling around in there, but with their training, they can tell if the cow is pregnant of not. They often can even tell how far along the cow is.

So here comes my favorite little girl, #98. She is so gentle and sweet, you just want to give her a big old hug and a kiss on the cheek! For those of you who are familiar with our cattle, she is Black Hawk's 2009 calf. Charlie is her father and she is a 3/4 blood Lowline. Since we sold Black Hawk in April (she is now in Kansas City, MO) I was hoping to keep little #98 as a replacement for Black Hawk. She has the same sweet disposition as her mama. The vet checks her and announces that she is "open" meaning not breed, not pregnant, not with child...

My heart drops... Oh no... really? are you sure? Can you do it again? Spend a little more time, maybe she's not very far along...

An open cow in the herd is of no use. If they are not producing a calf for you, then they are just costing you money. Cattlemen provide room and board for the cows in exchange for the cow's calves. There are no free rides here. We usually have the "one strike and you are out" program here just like Lori mentioned on Facebook. If the cow does not get bred then she is sold. Usually if they have problems breeding, they will always have problems. If you keep them in hopes that they will get bred next year, you have to feed them throughout the whole winter and then there is the chance that they will still not get bred.

So when Dave said, "You know what to do. Paint an O on her hip and put her in the shipping pen...." he meant paint an "o" for "open" on her hip and sell her.

When Mick said, "what you had no clean up bull, time to sale" was asking if we had a clean-up bull. A clean-up bull refers to a bull that is turned out to breed the cows that didn't conceive through Artificial Insemination. Since we don't use A.I., we don't use a clean-up bull, but we keep our bulls in with the cows until they start calving.

So now Dan the Man needs to decide what to do with little #98. Our options are to keep her for another year and see if she gets bred next year (which gets my vote but isn't the smartest choice especially since the vet said she couldn't even really feel her ovaries) or we can sell her as an open heifer or we can keep her, feed her out and butcher her. :(

Good thing I don't make these decisions. I know Dan the Man will probably keep her and have her butchered, that makes the most business sense for our operation, but none-the-less I am sure that I will be a crybaby when the time comes for her to go to the processing plant. I haven't yet not teared-up at the processors when we have left a cow... but don't tell Dan the Man, I try to hide it that I am such a tenderhearted softy who cries during every Hallmark commercial! Where's the tissues? Now I need one...

Lil' Miss #98 in April 2010


  1. I had to share a couple of comments off Facebook.

    Shirley said: "Well, I learned some stuff I didn't know and some stuff I'm not sure I ever really wanted to know . . . ."

    Michelle said: "Gosh! Hasn't anyone watched City Slickers??? Norman got to live and be a pet!!! I say keep 'er! Tell Dan the Man you'll feed her and clean up after her if he'll let you keep your heifer just this one time! :o) Glad I'm not in your boots, Kath... I'd be sobbing in my cream puffs! ;o)"

    Nancy said: "It amazes me how people grow up in a farming community and have no idea of terms that are so everyday to the rest of us. When I read her post it made me think of my dad when we would preg check and his response to an "open" heifer. Thanks for bringing some wonderful memories to mind Kathi!"

  2. Dan The Man said

    To clear up something for those of you who are in the cattle business and know better Kathi was a city girl and is still learning about the finer points of country living like preg checking. She did some research on preg checking and that is where she got the notion that the vet was inserting her arm into the birth canal. In actuality the vet was inserting her arm in through the rectum and the stuff on her arm was poop. Sorry! I just didn't want my neighbor rancher friends to think we thought a calf came out of a cows butt.

  3. Dear Dan the Man, I know that the vet was inserting her arm in the cow's butt, but I was trying to be polite about it. I also know that the "stuff" was poop. I am not a total numbskull!! I was just trying to be a little tactful about the procedure.