Wednesday, February 15, 2017
A wonderful whoops
Forget flowers and chocolates and jewelry. I got the best Valentine’s Day gift ever – even if it was by accident and it arrived a little early.
It all started nine months ago on May 10, 2016.
“Do you think maybe there were a few things going on that day?” Glen asked cheekily, looking back.
I don’t remember exactly what was on our to-do list that day, probably fieldwork and planting. But I do remember standing in the barn office with Glen, talking about the heifers that were caught in the headlocks for work that morning.
“Your Milking Shorthorn heifer needs to be preg checked,” Glen said.
Most of our pregnancy checks are done via blood samples, so we simply needed to collect a vial of blood from Dallas to bring to the lab.
“And Wonder is in heat,” Glen said.
Wonder is a stylish Holstein heifer out of our W family. She carries a polled gene, so Glen selected a red-and-white polled bull for her first service, but she didn’t settle. Glen decided to try the same bull again for her second service.
Later that day, when Glen and I stopped to discuss the day’s progress, he made a confession.
“I made a mistake,” he said.
He went on to explain that when he pulled the thawed straw of semen out of the thaw unit, he double checked the straw before loading it into the gun. But the straw wasn’t the Holstein bull he had in mind – it was one of the Milking Shorthorn sires we had in the tank.
“I think I still had Milking Shorthorns on my mind after talking about Dallas,” Glen tried to explain.
You’ve heard of distracted driving; well, this is what I’d call distracted breeding.
Instead of discarding the Milking Shorthorn straw and thawing a Holstein, Glen put the Milking Shorthorn in Wonder. I know some dairy farmers would have chalked it up as a loss and thawed another straw. I think it is proof of how much Glen really loves me – or he’s just that frugal.
Upon hearing his admission, I jumped for joy.
“Maybe she won’t settle,” Glen said, half hoping.
But Wonder did settle. And I jumped for joy again when we got the pregnancy report 30 days later.
We already had several roan calves out of the Milking Shorthorn bull that Glen accidentally thawed, so I knew there was a really good chance Wonder’s calf would be blue roan. The prospect almost made me cry.
My last blue roan, Glory, passed away unexpectedly in April of 2015, leaving me heartbroken. She passed so quickly, I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye. She was, undoubtedly, my favorite cow. For eight years, she was my reminder of and connection back to the beautiful blue roans I grew up with.
Some of Glory’s descendants are red roan, but I knew deep down she was my last blue roan.
We decided several years ago that we were done crossbreeding. The Jersey crosses would all be bred continuously to Jersey; the Milking Shorthorn crosses would all be bred to Milking Shorthorn. All Holsteins would be bred to Holstein – no new crosses. Without a Holstein x Milking Shorthorn mating, it would be next to impossible for another blue roan to be born on our farm.
But miracles do happen. Sometimes in the form of accidents.
“Please let it be a heifer!” I cheered every time I saw Wonder’s mating in our record system.
Then, Wonder showed up on the Heifers To Calve list with a due date of February 14, 2017 and my excitement tripled. It would be hard to top a Valentine’s Day blue roan heifer calf.
When Wonder started showing signs of calving early, my hopes intensified. An early calf was more likely to be a heifer.
All of my hoping and cheering paid off.
On February 2, Wonder delivered a beautiful little blue roan heifer calf.
I was so ecstatic I could hardly sleep that night. I’m still excited. Wonder herself calved in looking just as stylish as she did as a heifer. This little blue roan calf could turn out to be pretty spectacular.
All because of a wonderful whoops.
P.S. After much discussion, my little blue beauty's name will be Whoops.
This post originally appeared as a column in the Dairy Star.