Learn from the Real-Life Stories of a Cow-Calf Farmer in Action
Updated: Jun 23, 2022
Have you ever wished you could see how a cow-calf operation works in person or, better yet, shadow a cow-calf farmer?
The real-life cattle farming, tips, and advice you get in person are always so much better than reading an online blog or watching a documentary. If you're new in the world of cattle farming or want to learn from the pros how to run a calf-cow operation, you'll find these real-life tips and stories as helpful as I did!
In spring of 2021, at the height of calving season, I got the opportunity to take photos out at the Pat Kirk farm and watch Pat work in person. "Look at that cow." Pat pointed out a pregnant Angus cow that was pacing in the corner of the pasture. "She should be calving soon," he said. Pat knows what to look for when a cow is about to birth. Our pacing brood cow was a classic case. She watched us skeptically, fast-walked up and down the fence near the gate in the corner of the pasture, and let out a bellow every once in a while.
"I'll check up on her later," Pat mentioned as he wisely drove the gater around, allowing her privacy. God pre-programed these animals to give birth naturally and on their own. Often, just the presence of people - especially on motorized things - are not a helpful disturbance to a cow giving birthing. So, left her alone for the time being.
Just before coming across this expecting mamma cow, Pat had taught me that Angus cows are typically the best mothers of all cattle breeds, because they are especially protective of their young. Interestingly, even with coyotes as predators here in rural Iowa, Angus mother cows do a great job of keeping their calves safe. It's one of the best traits of the Angus breed, especially on a cow-calf farm.
As we approached another Angus cow that had just given birth, I got to see her protective nature in person. Making sure to stay far enough away, we looked on with excitement and awe. What a precious sight. The brood cow stood close to her baby and watched us with quiet eyes. Because Pat Kirk has a good relationship with all of his cattle, this mamma cow was not too concerned about us observing her and her baby. You could say they know the hand that feeds them. As we cherished this moment of new life and the care God created the brood to have, I noticed how the cow licked her baby’s fur.
Another benefit of Angus cows is their milk production. Though cows in the Angus breed are not normally used for commercial milk production, they easily make enough milk for their young. Rarely does Pat worry about a new batch of calves getting enough food.
In 2021 I got the opportunity again, to learn from Pat Kirk, our expert cow-calf farmer. This time Pat was interviewed on the best traits to look for in a replacement heifer. Because of their natural instinct to protect their young, their good milk producing genetics, and their motherly instincts, cows in the Angus breed make some of the best mothers of all cattle breeds. They are easy keepers! You can learn more about traits to look for in a replacement heifer here or contact us directly to see what heifers we currently have available!
While Pat Kirk makes sure that each calf is doing what it should - standing, eating, and breathing - he also makes sure that all afterbirth is picked up and disposed. A couple springs ago, Pat and I were at church together during calving season. "I'm going to go check on the cows," he said as he turned to leave. Normally, he would stick around and enjoy conversation with fellow believers, but this Sunday, his responsibility to "have dominion" was more important (Genesis 1:26). Pat is the most responsible farmer I've met. On this day, that responsibility included the odd job of picking up leftovers from cattle birthing. This afterbirth would attract coyotes. Can you guess what that means? You got it! They would love to single out a young'un for a rare beef supper, that is, if they can make it past mamma cow.
Occasionally, cattle farmers will experience the death of an Angus cow during calving, a cow may reject her calf, or she may for some reason not produce enough milk. Although it isn't very common in the Angus cattle breed, one of these situations happened a few years ago.
Pat found himself with a heifer calf that needed extra care. I believe she also had a twin brother. As time went on, Pat Kirk named this little heifer, "Annie," and undertook the extra chore of feeding her by bottle. On one sunny summer day, I was again out at the farm taking pictures and was able to meet Annie in person. It was exciting for me. Annie stuck her tongue out and tried to lick up just about anything we put near her. She would have been very pleased to suck on someone’s thumb if we let her.
As time went on, Annie became a beloved heifer by many. Pat Kirk, a vet from Iowa State University, hired hands, a camera gal, and the nuns living at the farm all grew affection for Annie, and months before the sale came for that year’s calves, Pat had decided that Annie was on the farm to stay. To this day, she is very affectionate and a joy to see out on the pasture enjoying life. Pat’s work paid off!
Hopefully, you've enjoyed learning about some real-life experiences on a calf-cow farm and have gathered a few pointers too! Whether it's checking on the calves and cows, making sure the Angus broods have the minerals they need, cleaning up after birth, hand feeding a baby, or any of the other chores on the farm, when we watch Pat work with his cattle, it is the best education in cow-calf farming a person could ask for.
If you would like to learn more about the Angus calves for sale here in central Iowa and the superior care they receive, contact us today!