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Never Give Up- A Tale of a Premature Calf Born on the Dot Seven Ranch

August 13, 2017

Fall on the Dot Seven Ranch can only mean one thing: calving season. We start calving about the end of August but this year was much different. About two weeks ago (end of July) my Mom was doing a routine herd check on a Friday morning when she noticed one of the first calf heifers going into labor. This was not a good sign and we were prepared for the worst.

Calves born an entire month early typically don’t survive. They are underdeveloped and much too small, not to mention the heat of the Central San Joaquin Valley is often far too intense for a newborn to handle.

Fortunately, the heifer had the calf without any complications. Step one was a success. Much to my Mom’s surprise, she also found the calf alive! We knew at this point that although we had a LONG way to go, we were going to do anything in our power to help this calf survive his unfortunate entrance into this world.

Not surprisingly, this calf was TINY. His hair was very short and coarse. His ears fit in the palm of my hand, a little bigger than the likes of a golfball. He was a tiny heap of bones with all the obvious signs that he should have baked a little longer.

First order of business was getting colostrum into him as soon as possible. We knew if there was any chance of him living it would be because of the colostrum and our intervention. My mom also administered (injected) some vitamins and minerals to give him a little extra boost. We call these our “weak calf shots” and they come at the recommendation of our veterinarian.

It was soon decided that Maximus would be his name. After all he needed something strong going into the hard battle he had ahead.

Maximus couldn’t drink from a regular bottle, the nipple was too big for his mouth. It was off to the feed store for a smaller goat nipple. And that was just the ticket. He drank a healthy amount of colostrum considering his size; that was when we started to think he had a chance.

The heifer was in a small pen in the coral that we use for these kinds of unexpected calving season scenarios.  Shade, fresh food, & water were provided and after his feeding we put Max back with his mother.

For the next week-and-a-half trips were made morning and night to feed Max and try to see if the heifer had any milk. In the beginning, my mom would get about a quarter cup each feeding so we continued to supplement Max with the hopes that his mom would start producing much more milk soon. After all, she wasn’t supposed to calve for another month.

Slowly but surely everything progressed. Max got stronger. His mother’s natural instincts kicked in. Her udder filled out a little bit at a time. And Max drank less and less of the milk he was being fed.

At two weeks old, Max is no longer super wobbly, he bawls and play and kicks like a normal calf and his mother cares for him very intently. We are proud to say that this pair has moved to a larger pasture where he will continue to grow. We will monitor them closely for many weeks to come. And my mom still makes the heifer take Max to the shade every single day.

Sometimes, ranching isn’t easy but lessons are learned and the rewards far outweigh the sweat and tears. For more updates on Max follow my instagram @meetyourbeef or @thebeefboutique . I share updates on my stories often ūüôā


Calving Season 2014, Featured

Calving Season- It’s Not Always Sunny

September 20, 2014

As I have said before, calving season is most definitely my favorite time of the year on our cow/calf operation. It’s not only new life but hope for the future and reinforcement that we did things correctly the year prior. It gives me chills to watch a mother cow and her calf interact in the first few minutes after a calving. The instincts that the mother cow has to lick off the calf, eat her afterbirth (don’t want the predators to know there is a new calf), and protect that new baby is something you’d have to see to really understand. ¬†The same thing goes for the calves. Within 10 minutes they are attempting to stand. It’s very shakey and unsuccessful in the beginning but usually within 30 minutes to an hour they are up and then following their own instincts to nurse. How long does it take us humans to walk? And if we had to figure out how to feed ourselves within the first few hours… forget it!

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Calving Season 2013, Meet Your Beef

Turning a Negative into a Positive

September 4, 2013

It’s been an interesting Labor Day weekend on the .7 (dot seven) Ranch. ¬†Let’s just say the title of this holiday is quite fitting! ¬†While my brother and I we’re celebrating my birthday a littler early in the mountains, my mom was checking all the cows. ¬†Saturday we had a set of twins. ¬†One heifer and one bull calf, both healthy. ¬†Twin calves are often a bit of a predicament. ¬†Because our cattle are pretty close to the corrals, we bring the twins and their mother in so we can make sure that the calves are nursing and getting along just as they should. ¬†So that is just what my mom did. ¬†Sidenote: Generally a cow has a hard time raising twins. ¬†Sometimes she may not even accept the second calf. ¬†It takes a heck of a cow to raise a set of twins, one that is in great condition and has a really good udder. ¬†For this reason twins are not the optimal situation. ¬†Twin calves that are left on their mother tend to be quite a bit smaller than average. ¬†Since raising these animals is how we make a living, we want one mother cow to one calf so she can raise one big stout calf instead of two mediocre calves.

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Calving Season 2013, Meet Your Beef

Calving Season 2013

August 27, 2013

Well, it’s here! ¬†The best time of year (besides maybe payday and my personal favorite, Christmas).

Calving season means a lot of things for us on the .7 ranch.  It means having all hands on deck 24/7 watching the cows by checking on them multiple times a day.  It means new life and sometimes harsh realities of life but it also means the beginnings to a paycheck.

This last Sunday my mom had spent the morning checking all the cows and bringing up the first calf heifers* who were getting close to calving. ¬†She had let my brother and I know that there was a heifer that she thought was starting to calve and to check on her first thing when we arrived. ¬†When I got there that afternoon, said heifer was certainly in labor. A crick in her tail and some mucus coming out her back end. ¬†About 10 minutes later there were three of us there watching her every move. ¬†Below are the chain of events in pictures. ¬†I apologize for the vulgarity of the first picture but I warned ya it was my intention to show exactly how this ranching thing works ūüôā

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*Clarification: first calf heifers are the females who have yet to have a calf. We pull them out of the herd (always with a buddy) and put them close to the barn so we can monitor them more closely in case there are any complications.  Because these animals are rookies to being a mother we take extra precautions to ensure live and healthy calves.