Ranch life in the Big Sky state through the eyes of one who has lived through it...so far.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Doubling Up

Last night we had the smallest calf I have ever seen alive. He weighed less than twenty pounds, barely reached my knee. We were amazed that he managed to stand up and suck down a pint of milk. And sad, if not surprised, when he didn't make it through the first day. To cheer myself up, I took pictures of our twins. Well, tried to take pictures. Between them tearing around and their mother snorting and pawing dirt, I had a little trouble getting both of them in one frame.





As you can see, they're not identical. The one with the black spots on his face is a bull. That's called brockle-faced, and indicates a mixture of Angus blood and a white-faced breed like Herefords, which is called bald-faced, or baldy, which is not considered an insult to a cow, but I wouldn't recommend tossing it around in a biker bar.

The other is a heifer. She isn't quite a baldy because she has one black eye. When there is one twin of each sex, the heifer will usually be sterile. As a person who took over forty credits of college biology I should be able to give you a very detailed explanation of this phenomenon, but I'm drawing a blank and too lazy to go look it up. Plus, I'm sure one of my incredibly intelligent readers will explain it for you down in the comments.





There. I don't know about you, but I feel better about life in general.

15 comments:

Jean said...

Cute babies!

ARranchhand said...

It's called a Freemartin! I just had a few discussions on the topic the other day. It happens when the blood from the male fetus crosses over to the blood supply of the female and masculinizes her reproductive tract. I think it's kind of a cool thing to look into. It's not a guarantee that the heifer will be sterile, but it's a pretty good bet.

Glad the twins are doing well!

Kari Lynn Dell said...

See. Didn't I tell you someone would know. And I'd completely forgotten about 'freemartin'.

Linda G. said...

Awww. Adorable! :) And interesting about the infertility. Mother Nature never ceases to fascinate.

Tawna Fenske said...

You're right -- seeing those babies does make me feel better about life in general! (And about the sad loss of Mini Moo).

Thanks for sharing those!

Tawna

Elisabeth Black said...

Aw, love!

ArkansasCyndi said...

ARranchHand is just full of cattle information...and as a college senior, he should be!

What a pair of cuties. I look forward to the day I get to actually see your ranch (and it will happen, I swear)

Julie Weathers said...

Kari, sad about the little guy. It always broke my heart when we tried to save one and they didn't make it, but I've never heard of one that small even being strong enough to suck.

We had an old cow who had twins. She apparently gave enough milk to get the girls going, but after that they ran from cow to cow stealing some milk until the cow realized it wasn't their calf and kicked them off. We brought them in and fostered them on a heifer who lost her calf. She didn't go for the idea at first, but finally adopted them.

We named the babies Ruff and Ready because they had been so tough to survive until we found them. Later, we'd see mama out in the pasture with her babies and if she saw a rider, she threw her tail in the air and headed for the brush. She was so protective of those babies. Gathering time was interesting because she's lay in the brush and taught the calves to do the same. You could ride nearly on top of them and not see them until you got well past and then they'd make a run for it. They eluded several sweeps.

Harley May said...

I am sorry about your mini moo.

These twins are adorable and thank you for sharing. I'm sure this is all miraculous to watch on a regular basis.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Julie: We usually end up grafting one of the twins off an another cow that's lost her calf because very few cows have enough milk to raise two calves to the size we like for shipping, but so far they're sticking with mom.

Weekend Cowgirl said...

Sorry you lost the little one, but the twins are pretty dern cute. Thanks to ARranchand for the real name. We just call them sterile around our place! Our mama's that have had twins this year were all able to nurse both which is always nice.

Carol said...

Ahhh... our smallest calf ever was a 30 pounder... His twin was a 70 pounder and so we were startled when we checked them again and found the little extra surprise inside the pen! He, of course, was named Crackerjacks and spent his first few days of life inside my kitchen. He did grow and survive but was a pitiful size all his days. I voted to keep him for a lead steer, but somewhere/somehow he disappeared. He was too small for the sale barn. I never asked, no one ever told... but he brought us joy for a while!

Julie Weathers said...

Kari, yes, one calf per cow is always best. Poor old mama couldn't even keep one alive. It's really a wonder she had them both. But they were cute and became legendary in their escape attempts. Mother later bought lots of orphans and bottle raised them, but my stepdad thought it was best to try them on the heifer.

Delilah S. Dawson said...

I just love the term "brockle-faced". I have to find a way to use that in everyday life.

heidiwriter said...

Awww, sad about the little one!
But your twins are precious! Cute!!

It was nice meeting you at the Storytelling Roundup. Keep writing!