Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Interesting Advice from 1808 on the Care of the Cow that Prematurely Calves or Aborts

How to Manage and Care for the Cow that has Prematurely Calved (or slipped) their Calf - from The Complete Grazier, 1808, by Thomas Hartwell Horne

". . . But where a cow slips, or casts her calf prematurely, she must be tended with great care; and ,whatever may be the cause, whether abusive treatment, violent exercise, bruises or blows, or that unnatural appetite known by the name of longing, every animal that has slipped her calf should be carefully separated from the rest of the herd.  Cleanliness which is an essential requisite in the general management of cattle, ought in this instance to be an object of special attention; and, as cows which are liable to drop their calves usually evince some preparatory symptoms between the cause of the abortion and the actual slipping of the fetus, it will not be altogether useless to bleed them two or three times, as this expedient has sometimes operated as a preventive."

"After, however, the calf is produced, it will be necessary to assist the natural functions of the animal in order to carry off the secandines * provided in the uterus for nourishing the fetus; and which, continuing there in consequence of abortion, would become putrescent, and thus occasion a disagreeable odour that would quickly communicate an infection among other breeding cows."

"For this purpose we would, at all times, recommend the following mixture to be given the cow as soon after calving as possible:  Let about three quarts of water simmer over the fire; and, when warm, strew in as much oatmeal as will be sufficient to make a strong gruel, carefully stirring the whole, till it boils, that no lumps may arise; then add one quart of ale (or two of table beer) and one pound of treacle (molasses), and carefully incorporate the different ingredients by stirring.  This mixture should be given lukewarm: it is peculiarly grateful to cows, which (particularly young ones) will drink it eagerly, after the first hornful, and are thus prevented from taking cold.  And, as it is of importance to regulate the state of the body, this object may be effected by giving a mash of bran wetted with warm water."

"Further, it will be necessary to milk the cows, especially if they be full of flesh and the udder hard, three or four times a day, for two or three days, and the calf should be suffered to suck as frequently, if in the house; or, in the field to run with her and suck at pleasure; care being taken to observe that the mother does not prevent it, for, if the udder or teats be sore, she will naturally be averse to suckling, and danger is incurred of losing both animals: and, in case the kernel of the udder is hard, the hardness may be removed by rubbing it three or four times in the day."

*"Or afterbirth: -- in the North it is termed the cleansing.  This excrement ought to be narrowly watched,  after it is passed, as cows will often eat it with great avidity."

Climate Change in Texas - Our Texas Cows Got the Message . . .

. . . and the East Texas cattle population has formed an alliance to suppress belching and farting in the interests of  protecting the Ozone -- apparently it worked.

The weather in Texas is notorious for being unpredictable within most any season, and in this upper sliver of southeast Texas, tucked right in the northern edge of Tyler County -- this winter has surely been one to remember.  I'd say the cows have done a pretty good job of holding back on those belches, maybe the constant hole digging in the soil by the bulls isn't 'soil degradation', but is actually a repository for herd belches. 

Yesterday evening the snow and sleet started about 5:30 PM, and it was pretty nasty outside.  But within an hour it was just pretty flakes of snow falling. By 11:00 PM the pastures and the treetrops were covered in a white blanket of snow, and the flakes were still thick and softly falling.  This morning the melt had already begun by the time I took a few pictures, but as we will be in the throes of man and cow caused Global Warming within a few short years, decades . . . who knows what the current time line theory is-- I certainly recorded what may be never ever seen again in these Pineywoods.

Last night's snow fall has been our third snow of the winter, and the same can be said for many other parts of Texas as well.  Yet Texas is the cow home of the largest population of cattle in the United States of America, over 13 million head of cattle.  The atmosphere above the blue skies of the State of Texas must be surely choking on methane emissions from the belches of cows and from their manure. 

Is there a Texas sized hole lurking in the ozone above our great State?  I haven't heard about one.  And the air I breathe in my rural part of Texas is clean and fresh.  The same can not be said about the City of Houston.  If there's ever a time when I remember the fast driving fun of my youth, it's when I'm trying to get the heck out of Houston so I can breathe again and leave my constant Houston Headache behind  -- and get back to my rural country air filled with the cow belches just as fast as I can.

We are told that cattle are a greater contributor to Global Warming than the Transportation sector.  A trip to Houston and back to home always shows what a Farce that notion is.  This third snowfall as well shows what a farce that notion is.  Texas farm and ranch land accounts for some 78% of the total land area in the State of Texas, or about 130 Million acres.  Eighty-three percent of that farm and ranch land is in the hands of small land owners having less than 499 acres, and a lot of cows roam that acreage.

Per the Texas Dept. of Agriculture (2007), "Texas is the number one cattle producing state in the country, with an inventory of 13.8 million cattle and calves -- more than twice as many as the next largest producer."  Shouldn't we Texans have hole in the ozone to worry about? Shouldn't we be in a sweat instead of a shiver?  Or have our cows found a way to circumvent the goals of the EPA, the United Nations, and their great and all powerful leader -- the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?

Visit my HubPage for an in-depth examination of the EPA and FAO efforts to exert governmental control over the cows in your pastures at a level you could never have imagined in a rational world.  (Image below is provided by your EPA to assist you in understanding just how to test the methane of your cows - looks like a bad, very bad joke.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Should we be Worrying about a Carbon Tax Assessment on our Cows?

Raising cattle has lots of costs, both monetary and in terms of your time; but it also has lots of rewards that are perhaps hard to convey to someone who hasn't experienced the sort of peacefulness and rightness that comes from having cattle grazing pastures around your home. 

I have largely tended to scoff and ignore reports that cattle are primary contributors to Global Warming. I felt comfortable with my grassfed approach to raising my entire herd, mama cows and all.  How could that be a bad thing?

Suddenly, there has been a lot of finger pointing at grassfed beef as an even worse culprit to the earth than a stalled and grainfed steer.  So I felt like I could not ignore this, laugh at this, anymore.  I found the FAO's 2006 report that damned my gentle grassfed cows, and I read it with great interest, and I recommend everyone to read this report.

While a grassfed animal does produce more methane via their belching, the grain fed animal produces manure that contains more Nitrous Oxide, almost 300 times, or ~93%, more toxic to the ozone than methane.   Not to mention the Carbon Dioxide emissions that result from the cropping of the feed grains, and the nitrous oxide from the fertilizers used to crop the grain.

The FAO's 2006 report that damned the livestock industry actually provides NO estimation of the net carbon effect of converting to an all grain livestock industry. NONE. And certainly no estimation of the impact on water supplies from cropland fertilizer runoff.

And in regard to grass fed cattle operations, the FAO references the 2002 work of Vaclav Smil who says ". . . Nitrogen loss not being a factor in the production of “totally grass-fed” bovines or bovines raised on “crop and food processing residues that are unpalatable to non-ruminants – such as humans"; and Smil goes on to say that grass fed production of livestock would be environmentally preferable in societies that could manage to implement it.

Apparently the FAO would rather spend their time coming up with some vaccine, or chemical additive for the cow to eat, to reduce their belches.  Follow the blog title link, or click here, for my articles on the findings presented in the FAO report, Livestock's Long Shadow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Did anyone Tell Al Gore? There is Snow again in the Pineywoods of East Texas

We've got snow again in the Pineywoods of East Texas!  And amazingly some of it actually stuck.  Mother Nature seems to be letting everyone know that she is very much in charge of climate change.

On the other hand, I'm expecting any day to hear some Global Warming gasbag, who just has to have the answer to everything as long as it backs up their own ideas and pocketbook, claim that the efforts already made to combat Global Warming are responsible for all the snow of 2010, and that it actually proves they are in fact correct.  Of course, were they to take that self-aggrandizing stance, it's doubtful the folks in the Northeast would bother to trade in any more of their gas hogging vehicles; instead, there would be a rush to the local auto dealers to buy the biggest and baddest and get that exhaust choking out into the crisp cool air. Maybe it's time to double down on a long position in Ford.

Oops!  I've gone and done it again, mentioned something political on my blog!  I'm trying real hard to just post quotes that reflect how I feel about the politics of the let me get back to my British White cattle.  Here is a photo of Elvis this morning; I don't think he's happy much with the snow or being in a pasture all by his lonesome, but he does look good for an old middle-aged bull.  Notice the gray spots on his hide showing up through his wet hair.

In England, the breed standards state a preference for the skin having a dark pigmentation, and this is often referred to as blue-skinned.  There is a long tradition in some English herds of choosing herd bulls that are blue-skinned.  It's been my experience that 100% blue-skinned bulls, such as my King Cole, Tyson, Mazarati, BlueBoy and El Presidente, throw very good color on their calves.  And of course the dark pigmentation is considered a trait that adds to the hardiness of individual animals against the arsenal of Mother Nature, primarily the Sun.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

British White Cattle - Selection and Breeding for Color Pattern

Many thanks to Diamond C British Whites in Smithville, Texas for these photos of her Tom Sawyer sired calves. The first photo shows a newly born bull calf from this past week, having a very nice low birth weight of 64 lbs, with his sister, Diamond C's Taffy, relaxing beside him.  Taffy is about 2.5 months old in the photos.  Both calves are well marked and well made youngsters.  (Visit Lazy A Ranches for a series of charming photos of their Tom Sawyer sired heifer.)

Among British White breeders there are some who perceive a 'perfect' marked British White as one that is a pretty white one with black points and as few spots as possible.  However, historically, as in for several hundred actual years, there has always been varying degrees of speckling and spots about the neck and body in the herds of England of our quite ancient polled 'Park' breed. Even today many of the most revered British White bulls of England exhibit those very traits.

What we all strive to over come is the appearance of the line-backed markings, which are clearly 'over-marked' calves as defined by our breed standards.  Eight or so years ago, when I bought my first British Whites, I was unaware of any prevalence of over-marked calves occurring, or of a stigma attaching itself to the dam, or sire, of those over-marked calves.  I even sold one over-marked bull calf into a starter seedstock herd in my ignorance.  The bull was bought at the side of his dam and was registered, and actually did a fair job of producing nicely marked calves.

Of course, in the beginning, I largely fell hard for the breed's storied history and unique beauty, and bought what I found available to put in my pastures, without any actual knowledge of what I should be asking or looking for in judging the cattle I purchased.  I was quite fortunate to get some really nice foundation animals to start my British White herd.  However, had I been so very judgemental and critical, I would have not have purchased what became significant females in my herd, such as CRae 215G, who had scurs, but was in all other traits an outstanding female; or HRH Bountiful, who is quite spotted, and has had two over-marked calves, one before I purchased her, and another sired by DFTX Watson.  Regardless, I wouldn't think of letting her leave my pastures.  I've no doubt that the two over-marked calves resulted from her genetics, but in a rare breed such as British White, I certainly can live with that.  (Note the linebacked calf in the British White Cattle Society photo below, and the strongly spotted and handsome English bull in their photo above.) 

Today, I find that buyers are much more informed and particular than myself when they approach the decision of choosing the British White breed and in the selection of their seedstock herd.  As well, I am more informed and try to take great care in providing a buyer with all the information of consequence that may impact their buying decision; whether it be scurs present in a cow, an over-marked parent, or an unruly nature.  Eight years ago, I had no idea what a scur was, or that it was undesirable.  I'll never forget my young niece, she was about 11 years old then and my pasture buddy whenever she could come and visit, gleefully pointing out to me all the cows in my herd that had scurs, she was quite proud of herself, and she was remarkably dead-on in her assessment.

I've no idea why now some aspects of our breed are more focused upon than eight years ago, perhaps the breed has made greater strides in the last ten years versus the thirty breeding years in the USA that preceded.  Regardless, this new focus on 'perfect' and zero spot markings is perhaps leading to the dreaded 'single-trait' selection that over time leads to breeding and buying decisions that introduce undesirable traits as to conformation of individual animals, and may as well lead to under-marked animals, such as occurred in the ancient horned Chillingham herd at different points in its storied history.

On the other hand, the education and focus of breeders on rooting out scurs is one that should be addressed; and in fact in England a scurred animal is not permitted registration under the breed standards of their British White Cattle Society.  As scurs are fairly commonplace in our American herds of British White cattle, the eradication of scurs from registered animals would certainly require a structured approach and goodly period of time. 

As well, the Society began a structured closure of their breed-up program in 1996, in order to ". . .further continue the process of ensuring that the British White remains true to the type that has graced our countryside for centuries."  This very topic comes up from time to time among our members, but is generally tabled as just not the right time.


The most recent English semen imported to the USA was that of Huckleberry Finn.  Huck Finn has lots of spots, and I don't recall anyone being terribly concerned about that in the odious ordeal most sustained in finally acquiring semen on this English bull.  Use of his semen has declined a great deal as there is a perception that he will mostly give you over-marked calves.  However, only one over-marked Huck Finn calf was ever born in my herd; and the fault lay equally with the dam -- one of my original foundation heifers of standard markings.  But, the tendency for Huck Finn to throw over-marked calves is certainly present in his genetics, as I learned in England that his dam was in fact an over-marked pedgiree English female.

That said, generally an over-marked animal is the result of a 'nicking' of similar genetics with the female he is mated with.  Probably one of the single most important questions breeders should ask about animals they are considering purchasing, is whether the animal has any overmarked females in at least the prior four generations, on either the dam or sire side.  Relatively new breeders such as myself would not be able to answer that question, as it is not revealed on registration pedigrees; and I breed just as blindly as everyone else with my older females.  This information would require a call to the BWCAA and a look up of individual animal records.

If you're really interested in trying to understand why within the British White breed there are speckled, roaned, and line-backed animals born to standard marked parents -- I recommend a close reading of the in-depth research on the genetics of color presented by the Double Helix ranch, a prominent breeder of Texas Longhorns.  The English Longhorn and the horned White Park were inter-bred in their long history -- the horns of the Longhorn leaving their mark on many examples of the horned White Park today, and the color pattern of the horned White Park leaving its mark on the English and the Texas Longhorn today.

  Moorside Black Knight, Sire of Hevingham Polaris, Gr. Grandsire of Tom Sawyer
Hevingham Polaris, Awesome Sire of Huckleberry Finn, Grandsire of J.West's Tom Sawyer, Follow this link for a photo of an aged Polaris at pasture, note he is blue-skinned and does have speckling.
De Beauvoir's Huckleberry Finn, Sire of J.West's Tom Sawyer

J.West's Tom Sawyer
J.West's Zeus, Son of Tom Sawyer, Maternal Grandson and Paternal Gr. Grandson of Popeye
Lazy A's Little Beauty, Daughter of Tom Sawyer, Maternal Granddaughter and Paternal Gr. Granddaughter of Popeye

(For a nice selection of photos of examples of British White cows and bulls in some of the herds of England, visit this Bohaty's British White page.)