We have our very first baby here on the farm and are so excited she is a little heifer. So long as she stays healthy and does well she will stay here with us on the farm as our first replacement heifer. The girls have named this sweetie Ginger. Ginger is bonus baby as we were not planning on calves until next spring.
We purchased three bull calves, and a heifer in response to an ad on Craigslist. We called intending to purchase the four older heifers also mentioned in the ad, but they had already sold. As luck would have it, the person who purchased them decided they were too small to breed to his larger bull and sold them to us a few weeks later. While there are some inherent disadvantages to purchasing livestock through resale sites such as Facebook and Craigslist it is absolutely the most affordable way to jump into the business. Buying animals from someone you do not know comes with the risk they might be bred even if they are not supposed to be. You just will not have the information about accidental or unmanaged exposure to a bull. Because you do not always have that information the possibility needs consideration. When introducing animals from outside the herd, good management requires higher vigilance about vaccinations, and initially isolating new animals from your existing herd to prevent the spread of disease.
All five of our breeding heifers are Angus Lowline cross, or American Aberdeen. Three of the five are red Angus. Red Angus cattle are purebred Angus, and no different from the more common black cattle, however, the red is a recessive gene. Lowlines are also purebred Angus selectively bred to be smaller in stature. Because they do not carry a dwarf gene they are not susceptible to other health problems, unlike other small or miniature breeds. Our crossbred cattle are called ‘moderators.’ They are the product of a lowline bull bred to a full-size Angus cow. They are about 3/4 the size of our other full-size Angus heifers of similar age. We lucked out because all eight of these animals are gentle and easy to handle, which is necessary on a farm with poor fences and not much in the way of handling facilities.
These smaller cattle are perfect for our small operation. I am partial to the red, and would like to continue breeding for the red recessive gene. Smaller cattle fit within our program for a few reasons. Smaller cattle finish better on grass. Many operations in our area raise and market grass-fed beef. Our focus is maintaining a herd of between five and ten mother cows and their calves. With that plan in mind, I would like to keep animals that finish out nicely on our place. Lowline cattle are also more efficient. The cows are smaller and eat less, but are still able to produce calves that wean the same weights. Smaller cattle are easier for me to manage on my own, particularly when Handy Husband is off at his day job.
Back to how Ginger is a bonus baby… We purchased these heifers as open (not bred.) As it turns out, that was not exactly the case. 57 (as we so creatively call this baby’s mama) is a good mama. So far, she has done everything just right. We have been watching her closely for weeks because she was obviously bred. Here comes the sad part of this story… Unfortunately, 56 an equally beautiful red lowline cross that looks nearly identical to 57, was also bred and delivered a stillborn calf about two months ago. It is hard to tell what went wrong, but we plan to give 56 another shot next spring. Because we purchased these cattle for bargain basement prices on craigslist a certain amount of uncertainty is assumed.
As it is, we are thrilled to have Ginger joining the herd. She is feeding nicely and is a spunky little gal!