Cows and Lucerne in Emerson

Lots of cow butts in the Emerson lucerne paddock.

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Little G-Unit is one now and filling out. We want to keep her for the cow herd since her mother is Big Cow and is still producing at seventeen years of age. G-Unit looked scrawny at 12 months but is now looking much meatier at 14.

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Cow 63 hasn’t given birth yet. She’s big, though. I watch her daily.

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Some fine heifers: Leftie (missing her left horn) and 31 the Perfect Heifer, so named because the seller regrets selling her because she grew so well formed. She was one of the youngest when sold and he had no idea how she would turn out. Both of these are for the cow herd although we have to watch Leftie’s left horn to make sure it doesn’t turn back in and start to hurt her.

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Cow 78, who is in amazing condition for a thirteen year old cow who just gave birth. She does well on the farm, which isn’t something I can say about all the older cows. Her horns look cool, too. Her calf is called Hermano since he’s the brother of heifer 78 (now called Sandra, named by a friend). Cow 78 is slick and intelligent and fit and puts on condition well.

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Gremlin is our young bull. He’s the black taureau with short horns below. He has just been put in with the girls and is doing his job, but gets pushed around by some of the more dominant cows. He’s growing fast and it won’t be long before he outweighs them all. He’s also a very calm bull, but I never go in with the herd without a ski pole just in case. The local saying is, ‘Treat your bull like the Gendarmes.” I think this means ‘”give them respect and a little distance” and not “engage in a high speed chase”.

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The lucerne here is at about 3% bloom so is a much lower risk of bloat than a younger legume. Still I move them twice a day and check them more often than that. These paddocks had lucerne in them when we bought the farm and they were seeded pure. They are old enough now that grasses have spread into the lucerne, but after the first time round the lucerne dominates. The new fields we have seeded this spring are mixed orchard grass (cocksfoot or dactyle) and lucerne to give some variety and lessen the bloat risk further. Orchard grass grows here in summer so later grazings still have grass to give the cows a mix of food.

8 thoughts on “Cows and Lucerne in Emerson

  1. Susan Lea says:

    For some reason, my blog isn’t automatically updating your posts. Good thing I subscribed!

    That’s a beautiful shot of the lucerne and all the meaty butts! I enjoyed “meeting” some of your herd. I love the photo of Cow 63 flicking her tongue out to pull in the alfalfa. Until we had cows and I watched them close up I had no idea that they do that–kind of like big furry frogs! 🙂 Siobhan loves to lick our hands, and although it’s very slimy (as you know), it feels good because of her scratchy tongue. I assume the scratchiness helps hang onto slick grass.

    Sounds like you’ve got some nice, reliable older cows. Have you come up with a plan for what happens when a cow is too old and can’t hold condition anymore?

    I’m full of questions today. Maybe this is a dumb one, but why is Gremlin black? Other than making him easy to pick out in the herd! 😀 (JK!) I didn’t know Salers came in black.

    I love your saying about the gendarmes. Some day I really want to make a sign I’ve heard of and hang it on the pasture (even though we don’t have a bull; lots of people see Sara’s horns and think she’s a bull!): “The farmer allows walkers to cross the pasture for free, but the bull charges.” 🙂

  2. bc says:

    There are black Salers but they are rare in France. We have one black cow, Blackie Onassis (https://grasspunk.com/2012/03/23/black-salers-and-blackie-onassis/). In the USA there seem to be a lot of them because if your cow is black it qualifies for the Certified Angus program. Weird, eh.

    They search for the poll gene, too. For example see here: http://www.salersusa.org/index.php/why-salers

    Or their video with a few black polled bulls: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCAvVw6Wq7E

  3. bc says:

    Hey Cecilia,

    Each 4 weeks we seem to be getting a good soaking. It can get a bit dry in between on the fields that don’t have the the thick grasses yet.

    The best thing about the lucerne fields is the smell. You walk around after the cows have chomped and tromped it down and it smells lovely. Lucerne hay smells good when you unroll it. Do you guys grow lucerne/alfalfa?

  4. Andrew says:

    Nice saying about the bull. I’m gonna have to start using that one.
    Nobody grows alfalfa around here except for a few dairymen. It’s the same up North in Minnesota I think. A few folks grow it for hay, but it would be real hard to justify the cost of seeding it, as hay is usually a money looser.
    We have quite a bit in our CRP pasture, but that was seeded when it went into the program. I’ll have to go see how it’s standing up to the heat and insects.

  5. Andrew says:

    Nice saying about the bull, I’ll have to start using that one.
    Very few people around here grow alfalfa, especially in pure stands. Pure alfalfa is usually reserved for dairies, and nobody is willing to pay for alfalfa hay for their beef cattle. I haven’t even seen much of it in mob-grazing operations. It would seem that intensive grazers use a lot more clovers and eastern gamma grass as their high-quality forages.

  6. bc says:

    Andrew, alfalfa hay is around 150-180€ a ton here so very expensive. But hay in general is very expensive.

    If you go through that Anibal Pordomingo doc or the presentation you’ll see he uses alfalfa/lucerne for fattening his cattle in Argentina. Since we have neutral limestone-based soils we can grow it and it works well in our droughts.

  7. bc says:

    I’ve been thinking about this. I’m thinking our prices are higher than the USA which makes seeding this more reasonable, although the neighbors tend not to seed it because it is a little trickier to make hay with its thick stems and risk of leaf shatter. But the cows love the hay and love to graze it directly.

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