Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Breeding Buttercup Part 3 - The Saga Continues...AKA: Is She? or Isn't She?

Yes, here it is, November, eleven months since I predicted a calf, and still, no calf.  If you're not familiar with this story I sincerely recommend you read Breeding Buttercup Part 1 and 2, found HERE and HERE.

   After anxiously awaiting our new arrival, it became increasingly apparent after several months that Buttercup had not been successfully bred. One indication was that every 21 days, like clockwork, she would bellow all day long, and the other hint I got that she was hormonal was that on these early mornings, when she would come to visit me at milking time, she would groan and attempt to come over the fence, up close and personal.  We decided that it was time to call Scott. I don't know what Scott's formal title is; we just call him, "The A.I. Guy," and actually, thinking back, the story was that I called Jim Beauchamp a few days before Buttercup was due to come into estrus to see if his son, Jamie, would artificially inseminate her, but he was unavailable to be there the day she cycled, so Jim gave me Scott's number. 

Scott Yantz works on a nearby Black Angus Cattle Ranch and has alot of experience and training in this field and we were thrilled that he was able to come out that evening to do the job.  And what a job it was!
  For one thing, we had never introduced Buttercup to the homemade holding chute - silly us - so it took quite a bit of encouraging, pushing, pulling (have you ever pushed or pulled an 800 pound reluctant bovine before? not so easy!) bribery and time to coax her into place,

but once secure, the procedure was not lengthy nor complicated:

The tubes of semen, more like micro straws, are carried in a large, insulated thermos of liquid nitrogen called a cryochamber.

 They contain less than a gram of semen each from various, desirable types of cattle such as Hereford, Angus (black), Charolais, large dairy breeds - Holstein, Guernsey and, of course, like Buttercup, Jersey. There are approx 50-150 specimens in the thermos. 
The insemination procedure is particular but not difficult. The specimen has to be slowly warmed from 0 to 95 degrees to not damage the product. Then the A.I. guy, Scott, darns the arm length glove and does a palpation.

    He checks to determine the season of the cow, the location of the ovaries, and the position of the fallopian tubes. Then he places the foot long insemination rod with the specimen tube at the end into the cow and gently directs it through the cervix and with a gentle push like a hypodermic syringe, inserts the specimen into the uterine body, guiding and directing with his arm inside the cow. Next he removes the insertion rod from the reproductive tract and his arm from the rectum, and a gentle massaging pinch in the right spot causes the cow's muscles to pucker and retain the semen.

 Experience and observation told Scott that each time this occurred there was a good chance for success. Everything went well. 
    Our first A.I. attempt occurred in January and by March we knew it was unproductive, so Scott returned soon after and repeated the procedure. He was very optimistic the second time around.

It has now been almost 8 months since her insemination and she has shown almost no indication of having regular estrus cycles. I said almost. Once or twice I've been a little concerned, but perhaps she was reacting to another animal's heat cycle, specifically Lucy. Buttercup and Lucy are great friends as you can see in this story HERE.

Our Jersey cow semen was procured form a bull named  Chilli P. and Butter's due date is December 24th - Christmas Eve. If she has a heifer calf (a female cow that's never been bred) we will name her Butter Pea.  If it's a bull he'll be called Chili Cup.  I'm getting a little nervous though because she doesn't always look pregnant. Some days she does but I question if it's because she's gorged on Perennial Peanut Hay.
What do you think?

 I've never seen a pregnant cow so I'm not sure what she should should look like right now. From these pictures she still has another 6 weeks to go. I guess I could call Scott Yantz and ask him to come check, but I'm afraid I'd be terribly disappointed if she's not pregnant, and right now I think I want to hold on to hope.
 After all, Christmas miracles do happen!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Additions

  A week ago, Wednesday morning, I walked out the door at 4 am and heard the familiar, weak cry of a newborn baby goat.  I had been anticipating one of our Nigerian Pygmy goats to kid for the past two weeks so it was not unexpected. In the dark, in the light of my headlamp as I walked past the pens, I was somewhat surprised to see twins sitting up, dry and alert. This was Oreo's first kidding, and a Pygmy goat is quite small - comparable to the size of a Border Collie, so I wasn't expecting two babies.

This is Oreo. Full grown

 Because they seemed healthy and weren't crying, I continued with my chores, knowing that when I was finished I would have to somehow milk this new mama and teach the kids to bottle feed.
  On my way past again, in my headlight beam, some distance from the twins, I noticed a dark shape on the ground and stopped to think what it might be. Another baby?!  It took a moment to register (it was 4 o'clock in the morning after all) so I walked in,  almost certain that this was a stillborn baby.  As I touched the small shape to gather it up, it moved and cried out - I could not have been more surprised!  A quick look revealed that it was a boy, as were the other two, unfortunately, the less desirable of the genders.  I placed the tiny buckling next to his brothers hoping he would gain warmth from them while I finished  farm chores, again quite certain that this baby would not survive.
  After feeding and milking the goats I headed into the house to strain and chill the milk and I passed Bob on his way out the door to help. He said he'd feed the chicks and let the horses off - we have to separate the horses and clip them while they eat becasue Dixie will gobble down her feed and hay and then chase the other two away and eat their breakfast as well.  I mentioned to him that the goat had kidded and went inside.
  A short time later Bob was back and I told him about the baby goats. I said that I had checked and that all three were boys and that I was pretty sure the little one wouldn't make it.
  "You mean this one?" he said, and he unzipped his coat to reveal the pitiful little black goat tucked away against the warmth of his body.
  I fell in love with my husband all over again.

    Let me tell you about the Grace of God. This little black goat is half the size of his brothers. Typically, the runt of the litter is highly disadvantaged because he is pushed away from nursing by his older, stronger siblings. Because this particular goat had two bigger brothers who learned to nurse on thier mother just after birth he had not yet learned to suckle - a big advantage when bottle feeding a newborn goat. The sucking technique is different nursing from a baby bottle compared to  nursing on a mother's teat, and this little goat caught on to the bottle right away.  We decided to hand feed his brothers as well, but they did not learn as quickly.  I believe this stunted little buckiling will grow strong and healthy in no time!

Since Wednesday he has had quite an exciting life: He drove with me to Pensacola to pick up Samantha from the airport,

and went to work with us where he visited with the MOPS children and was named BUDDY!

Saturday and Sunday Buddy and his brothers brought delight to adults and children alike at the Survival Skills and Homesteading Expo at the Possum Palace in Wasau

In a week or two our new additions will have to be disbudded and castrated, and when they're weaned at 12-16 weeks all three boys will need good, forever homes.
Maybe yours?