Nothing to do with their own weight or others. Dairy farmers in Canada are paid based on the “components” of milk-butterfat, protein, and other solids such as lactose. Butterfat is the moneymaker, and every farmer I know loves to compare their results. Fun fact-whole milk is only 3.25% fat! My herd is currently averaging 4.3%. Low butterfat can indicate illness. Diet, genetics, and cow comfort all contribute to how much fat a cow will produce.
Bull semen, that is. Choosing a bull that fits with your herd goals-improving looks, milk yield, or health traits is a never ending task. Probably my favourite topic to discuss. It’s not uncommon to get really excited about new semen in the tank. Some farmers would qualify for an episode of Hoarders with how many straws they have. EastGen, a member of Semex, is even running a felfie (farmer selfie) contest to win Windbrook semen!
2 straws of bull semen. The pink straw had sexed semen (sorted to contain primarily X chromosome sperm)
Of course, we hope the aforementioned semen leads to pregnant cows! Cows don’t produce milk until they have a calf. It might sound like an episode of Teen Mom, but the goal is to have heifers breeding size by 13-15 months old.
Norene has 13 months until she is bred!
Once they have calved, they get a mini vacation before they are bred back again. Optimally, they will calve every 365 days, typical gestation of 280 days. Sometimes it takes multiple breedings, and this interval is much longer (eg Jersey cross named Fran who was bred 9 times and had 672 days between calvings. She did have a heifer!).
There’s a lot of ways to measure breeding success that I will talk about in a future post.
Canadians in general LOVE to talk about the weather, but farmers take it to a whole different level. Weather impacts everything on the farm.
During winter, freezing temperatures pose many challenges. From frozen water, to snow filled driveways, to keeping calves warm, there’s always something to complain about. I even dreamt about putting up and fixing pasture fences on a sunny spring day (an arduous, not always fun task).
Summer ramps up the weather talk even more. Heat and precipitation, or lack thereof, essentially determines when you will plant, harvest and the quality/yield of your crops. Pretty much always want the opposite conditions to what you have!