Country Living Series

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ruby's calf

Last Sunday while I was away at my Utah concealed carry class, at long last our herd matron Ruby had her calf.

If you remember, I had tucked Ruby into the barn/corral for a couple of days while some nasty weather rolled through. However once the weather passed, and since she showed no signs of calving, I released her. Naturally the baby was born when I wasn't home (though Don and the girls were).

Ruby is a calm and experienced mother (this is her seventh or eighth calf) and I have no concerns about her having the calf in the pasture. Unless we're expecting bad weather, that is.

It's a healthy little heifer and our first black calf of the year. We're calling her Alice.

Look at the size of that udder! Cows always bag up enormously around birthing time.

Alice in Wonderland?

This brings the calf tally for the year up to six so far: five heifers and a bull calf. Jet is due with her calf within the next few weeks, and Matilda is due in September.

Monday, when Alice was just a day old, all the other calves started running around, having a great time.

Little Alice clearly wanted to join in the fun, but at 24 hours old, her legs were still a bit too wobbly. So she kept giving these little hippity-hop half-leaps to show her enthusiasm. Very cute.

Meanwhile we had a bit more weather roll through, a storm cell big enough that we unplugged computers, just to be safe.

Soon the rain moved in.

In twos and threes, the animals all moved toward the shelter of the barn.

Soon everyone was cozied up under the roof.

Everyone, that is, except Ruby and Alice.

Ruby led the way into the barn.

But wait! Someone got left behind! "Mama...?"

Ruby quickly noticed her calf's absence and went searching.

Within a few seconds, they were both under shelter.

In the next few days, the weather in Idaho is making a huge shift. Rather than cool and rainy, we're heading into hot and dry. By Monday, rumor has it, we're heading for 99F.

Ug. I hate hot weather. Thankfully we have the barn to offer some nice shade for the critters.


  1. I was just reading another article on your blog and noticed the masthead changing :) Alice is beautiful! I do have to say that my favorite picture from this set is not the one you chose for the masthead but the one right after that, with Alice's head amongst all the flowers. You have a gorgeous property!

    1. I second the motion for the "head amongst the flowers" image. All in favor? LoL.

  2. Patrice,

    Love the cow photos!!

    Can you give me an idea what pastures in your area will support in terms of cows per acre? How many cows do you have on what size pasture? Are you able to feed them with grass and hay cut from your land, or do you have to suppliment?

    The reason that I ask is that we may have opportunity to move to Northern Idaho (closer to St Maries than Plumber) and I am trying to figure out how well land might support our creatures.

    Thanks for all you do!

    1. Hard to say, since there are so many variables involved. Cow breed (large vs. small), steer vs. lactating mother, amount of rainfall, type of soil, whether the animals can be rotated, whether or not the pasture is overgrown with hawkweed or other noxious invader... all these factors and more will influence how many animals an acre will support.

      By the end of summer, we'll have eighteen animals (including eight calves), which is FAR too many for our acreage. We rotate between two sides of our property (the pasture - 10 acres - and the wooded side - about five usable acres), and toward the middle to end of July we lease a neighbor's twenty acres; but by the time late fall rolls around and we start feeding, the pickings are VERY slim. Because we have more animals this year than we did last year, we'll probably start to supplement a lot earlier.

      We mow and bale another neighbor's 25 acre field, but results vary depending on how much rainfall we've had. We like to tuck away about two tons per animal for the winter. This is probably a little excessive, but we prefer to be safe than sorry. This means we'll need about 36 tons of hay for the winter, FAR more than our neighbor's pasture will supply. We'll have to buy the extra from area farmers in order to have 36 tons.

      Depending on what property you end up buying, just start with a cow/calf pair and see how they do. Be sure to rotate if possible (divide up the graze-able land into two or three sections) in order to maximize efficiency.

      - Patrice

    2. Patrice, this is very helpful. Do you have any resources you use to educate yourself about owning cows? I still live on the East Coast but we want to build a homestead in North Idaho sometime in the future. I'm very interested in this information. And I love your blog!

    3. Make sure you have infrastructure (barns and FENCES) in place before you get your critters. And then the very best thing you can do is just bite the bullet and get a cow.

      You might consider taking someone more knowledgeable with you when buying your first cow. You'll want to check for a sweet disposition, halter training, healthy udder (no mastitis if she's lactating), neat hooves, and other health factors.

      Remember, cows are sociable, so get two, or a cow/calf, or a cow/steer, or two cows, whatever. Give them company. But the best learning is done on the job.

      - Patrice

  3. Hi Patrice,
    Have been reading your blog time but am a first time commenter. The picture of baby Alice in the flowers is beyond precious!! We have had a few cattle in the past but this year was our first calf in a long time. ohhhh what fun. Mollie our heifer is a great Mom. I love your blog and hearing about your life. Keep up the good work. Hugs, Jan

  4. Thanks Patrice.
    This insight helps.

  5. Another beautiful calf,enjoyed the pictures!
    Refreshing to come here and see all your blessings something delightful besides sickening news!
    When I brought up the blog and saw the picture of Alice it was WOW and Awwwh - perfect picture!