Located in Central BC

Monday, 25 April 2011


Gray rejected twin

Twins!! trouble right from the getgo. I keep telling my human twins that I am not as bad as the mom cow who just accepts one of her twins and knocks the other one away when it tries to feed. 14 years and I still have my twins around so I guess I really wasn't as bad as a mom cow. And now, they are awesome little calf feeders. So awesome that this morning when I found the knocked about little gray bull calf in the pen with the mom cow doting on her black bull calf and literally knocking this little guy to the ground, I thought, well the girls would like another little calf to feed. (Yeah like they would like a hole in the head.) Regardless, this little guy wasn't gonna make it. Just how much rejection can a calf a couple hours old take anyways? So I loaded the little guy up and pulled him in the sled. He was far too active and large to put in the entranceway to the house, so I pulled him up to the girls bunnies enclosure. At 10 feet by 10 feet with a canopy and wrap around walls this was going to be his new home. The bunnies got put back in their old pen and I placed my new gray calf in the enclosure. 
Black accepted twin

With calfs and all things to do with cattle, patience and perserverace are necessary. Perserverance okay, I can do that, but patience is not a virtue that I am that familiar with. But I was patient when I sat in the maternity pen and watched the little calf try to nurse and get kicked away over and over again. The best place for a calf is with its mom, but if that is not going to happen, then one must take action. After about the 8th time of watching the little guy get beaten up by its mom, I took action. I loaded him on a sled and brought him to the bunny pen. The perserverance came next. He wouldn't drink the colostrum from the bottle. Matty and I stuck with it for about half an hour with only getting about 8 oz in. Then we took a break and went to check on the other twin calf. It was doing just great so I tried again with the bottle with Petra. And this time he was interested in sucking and we got him to drink 3/4 of the colostrum. Now he can rest and in a couple days, if all is well he can go up to the barn with the other bottle fed calfs.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Evolution of Borean Angus

Borean Angus Calf

 If you let it happen, ideas get formed and are dynamic. Sort of like one thought flowing into another thought and eventually a whole new idea is formed from the original. That is sort of what has happened with our cattle ranch. We were going to raise registered Black Angus bulls and heifers for sale. A good idea with the popularity of Black Angus bulls being high when we first purchased our Black Angus pregnant heifers and bull. Within a couple years we realized this probably wasn't the route that we were going to take. First off, the registered bull sale is in April and the goal of registered bull breeders is to provide the largest long yearlings possible for the sale, hence these ranchers were calving as early as January. Well to us, calving in January in Pr. George just didn't seem like a good idea. The first two to three months of their life would be spent in the bitter cold of winter.
In the spring of 2007 we were raising black angus. We had sold all the Highland Cattle that we had except for a Highland x Angus cow named Bess. Unlike our other Highland crosses, she had no horns so we kept her. That spring when the Black Angus calves were being born and moving slow and sleepy, Bess produced a dun colored baby bull calf. He was robust and vigourous and after 4 hours I was hard pressed to catch him. This was a sharp contrast to the purebred angus which seemed to sleep for days, often so sleepy that we were afraid they were dead. So we decided not to castrate him and keep him as a bull. We were castrating all the non-purebred bulls at this point. We gave him a name, because he was quite a light color: Spirit Calf.
And the next year we gave him the run of the herd. Spirit calf was released for the first three weeks of the breeding season. He was 15 months old. I had read in a book that a young bull can be expected to impregnate as many cows as he is old in months. Sure enough the next year we got 15 of our calves sired by Spirit Calf. They were everything we hoped for, robust and vigorous and not sleepy. They had hybrid vigor and grew fast. The added bonus to this bull is that we get a variety of colors of calves, from white, to blonde, red, brown and black. Spirit calf (the bull) is one quarter highland and three quarters black angus. His offspring are one eighth highland, just enough to give them more robustness at birth and hybrid vigor and growth. The meat is very good, the same as black angus.

Spirit Calf at 2 years old
 We had to give our new breed of cattle a name: Borean Angus. Something a little different for the sub-boreal forests that they spend their summer in.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Calf Tagging Day

Hard at work preparing tags

With 16 calves on the ground, it was time to start tagging them. This year we went for a BCID tag in the right ear with a white flap tag for the back. This way we could give the calves a reference number readily visible. Last year we wrote the BCID tag numbers in the calf list, but the numbers are small and require squeezing the calves to read them. So now, hopefully the calf ID will be easily readable.

Tagging Micro
After breakfast the girls got busy with all the tags, lists and elastics. So with all 7 kids we headed up to the maternity pens. Willy and Maggie were the spectators, John was to keep any nosy or upset cows away from us. Peter and Henry were to tackle the calves, I tag and use the elastic banding tool and Petra passes me the injections. Matty and Georgina loaded the tagging machine and kept track of the tags and which calf got which tag. Easy peasy! This was one of the easiest tagging sessions yet. The cows were more mellow than usual, Peter being much stronger and larger than last year grabbed the cows faster and got them down quicker.

The Spectators

He used a new technique this year. He approached the unsuspecting calf from the side and then grabbed both of the far legs and pulled the calf down. This worked surprisingly well and avoided the usual running around trying to physically catch the calf. We did have one overactive calf. She jumped around and basically pwned Peter then ran away out of that half of the pen. We caught her on the other side, alongside one of the last snow banks. Luckily it was a she and didn't require an elastic on its balls.
The best part of tagging the calves is it is such a family operation. Everyone has their part to play and we all work together so well.

That was yesterday morning and since then we have another two calves born. I suspect we will re-run the program next weekend.

Borean Angus Calf

Friday, 8 April 2011

Why Garrendenny?

Carragenna lining the front driveway.

Belfast 1928 and my father was born on the kitchen table of his grandmother's house "Garrendenny". This house was named after the ancestral castle of the Butler family. In 1999, I travelled to Ireland with my parents, my father's return to Ireland after he had left in 1930. We searched the nethers of Ireland, following different maps and talking to locals, but could not find the ancestral castle Garrendenny. The name stuck in my head and I chose it when I named my farm. On a later trip to Ireland, my parents managed to find and visit Garrendenny and brought me home a piece of slate from the now defunct castle.
Fatty-ding-dong our Black Angus Bull

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Calf Project

Chocolate (CoCo) a jersey cross steer

Matty with Dalmation, Charles and Micro

After years of seeing the ads for holstein day old steers in the Bargain Finder, this year we finally called them up. The net result is that Matty, Petra and Georgina are now feeding 5 calves in the barn, 2 holsteins, 1 jersey x and two orphan black angus bulls. The black angus are mine, the first from "deer cow" who decided last year to jump the fence and get impregnated two weeks early so she had her calf when there was still over two feet of snow on the ground. And then instead of following the sled with her calf on it to the maternity pen, she bolted. Peter tracked her by foot through the thigh deep snow half a mile back, John on skidoo much further back. She returned that night, but the next day wasnt interested in her calf. What a cow!! The second black angus was born rather limp. He managed to flip around and get himself soaked in the mud. Cold, muddy and limp we kept him in the kitchen overnight feeding him a small bit of packaged colostrum that evening. I slept on the couch to keep track of him overnight, and around 3am he started moving around. By the next morning he managed to get up with some help and that evening he stood by himself. At three days we moved him up to the other calves.

Petra with Charles, Georgina in background

So now the girls get up a bit earlier for school and we mix up the milk and carry up the pails to the barn. This time of year the sun is just rising as we head up the hill on the road and we crunch through the icy puddles with Patch and Rio (our dogs) alongside us. Patch is ready to help if there is an errant calf/cow that needs chasing and Rio is happy to help lick the milk out of the pails. At the barn, Petra takes the youngest black angus "coffee" and feeds him his bottles, Georgie helps Matty and passes the pails over the fence to Matty. This is where it gets interesting, Matty's holstein "Charles" is trouble, he's big and piggy. It seems whenever, I peek in the barn to see how they are doing, Matty has her arms around Charles, verbally scolding him and wrestling him away from the other calves milk. Charles laps his milk in a pail, the three others have pails with nipples, the other day when we were looking at the pails we noticed their labels: calf -a pic of a calf- teria. They are calfterias OMG!!