How many calves are born on your farm each year?
That's very difficult to answer because of so many variables. The biggest variables are:
- How many cows (female cattle) do we have
- How good was the bull
As of 2011, we've been targeting about 20 newborns a year, this to a herd of about 45 breeding cows. Most of the calves (cows and bulls) less than a year old will be sold to other farmers - typically for breeding, as pets (or for helping a young farmer), and a few as eventual beef animals. Of those not sold, about half will go into our "food" program (where they'll be raised to an economical weight and then taken to a processing facility), and the remainder will stay on the farm for training as riding, pulling, or ambassador cattle.
Since we don't use artifical insemination, the bull and his attitude to the cows is a major factor. If the cows shun the bull or if the bull is too aggressive, then the cows won't conceive or produce viable offspring.
Some lesser factors are:
- Ability to conceive; some cows will be too young to breed, others may have had problems during the last birthing and need a year to "rest".
- Improper calf confirmation... This is more a genetic problem and is mitigated by purchasing bulls and cows with the correct and compatible traits. For example, we want a bull that produces smaller babies to lessen the chances of a breech birth or wrapped umbilical cords.
- Nutrition and cow condition. If we have a bad hay year, then winter feed will be "off" and a pregnant cow could become stressed. We reduce the chances of this by buying hay from several different vendors at different places around the state. However, every year is different thus, our hay suppliers change from year to year.