AMY KIRK: Amy finally gets a cow
For the past several years we only had one Hereford cow in our herd amid the black, brockle and baldy cows on our place. Last spring, we had our first Hereford calf born in about eight years, and it was a heifer. I talked about the little Hereford calf so much that it became known as “Amy’s Hereford.”
I looked for her every morning thereafter throughout the rest of calving season when we fed cows. Over the summer when our family checked cows, any time the Hereford was spotted on the range, my husband, the kids, or I would announce, “there’s Amy’s Hereford.”
After our first year without our only Hereford cow Annabelle, I felt like we had to keep up with tradition, and when the Hereford calf was born, I talked frequently about how we should keep the Hereford calf as a replacement heifer. Originally, we weren’t planning to keep any heifers. The drought in the summer of 2012, and the extremely mild winter that followed with no significant snow until April, kind of made our decision for us until we got some good spring and summer moisture. Keeping heifers looked a little more promising, and eventually it was decided we’d keep some, just not as many. I took it upon myself to see to it that we kept the Hereford by bringing it up a lot. If we were going to keep a handful of replacement heifers anyway, it only seemed right that Amy’s Hereford should be one of the heifer calves we kept.
My husband has criteria for picking out replacement heifers in the fall, but to me, there has to be serious consideration regarding a heifer’s appearance. If we’re going to select heifers to keep and we’re going to be looking at them every day — hopefully for years to come — I think we need to strongly consider a heifer’s attractiveness in the criteria.
It’s already been disheartening enough when, during calving time, we would go out to check on the herd and get all excited when we discovered a new baldy calf, only to find out it was a bull calf, which would be sold as part of our calf crop in the fall. For people like Art and I, who are partial to good-looking black baldy cows, we need to increase our chances by throwing more Hereford into the gene pool. Additionally, brockle-faced cows add visual interest to the overall cow herd, not to mention how their different markings sometimes make it easier to identify if their eartag number isn’t easy to see or read.
My husband and I have been married for 19 years, and even though he tells me that the cows we run are “our cows,” I know he refers to our cows other times as “my cows.” I tease him that it’s only when he needs his family to help him do something with the herd that he can’t manage by himself he’ll call them “our cows.” When my Hereford came through the chute the day we worked our cows and preconditioned the calves, my husband summed up my status with our cows the best when told the vet, “After all these years, Amy finally gets a cow.”
— Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at ranchwifeslant.areavoices.com.