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July 01, 2014 | All In A Day's Work
Breeding Choices
We spent a great deal of time researching and thinking about how genetics can contribute into different aspects of the farm within our herd.
July 01, 2014 | All In A Day's Work
Breeding Choices
We spent a great deal of time researching and thinking about how genetics can contribute into different aspects of the farm within our herd.

Each farm has a decision to make when it comes to breeding. It often changes from year to year. 

Do you use a bull or do you chose artificial insemination?

Are you breeding first calf heifers where calving ease is important? 

Is a cross breed an option?

Are you breeding for replacements or for animals to sell? 

What characteristics are important? Is increasing milk production important? Is a bulky body for meat production important?

These are all questions and there are many more that come into play when we look at breeding. Since our herd is a mix of Irish Dexter Cattle mainly for beef and Dairy crosses for milk, butter and cheese, it becomes a complex web of facts and decisions.

Today, I want to just talk about one cow. Her name is Kira. She is an unknown breed but the suspicion is that she is a dairy/beef cross. This is the downfall to purchase part of your herd from a sale. You just don't know. What do we know about her? She is a large boned cow that just had a spring calf with no issues (ie: no pulling a calf). She doesn't produce high volumes of milk but her butterfat levels are good. She produced and has raised a healthy calf in 2014. We also know that it's time for her to be bred.

Our initial thought was to breed her to a dairy cross. Do we really need a replacement heifer? Would the bull we use produce the type of calf we wanted with her? We really don't want or need a replacement heifer and dairy crosses often don't "bulk" up for good beef production. We could allow her calf to nurse until roughly 5 months and send it for Rose Veal. Unfortunately, the demand is there but not guaranteed for the Rose Veal. 

After much debate and deliberation, we decided that she produces better calves for girth than milk (at this point this is an assumption because the calf is too young to know). Our thinking started leaning us toward a breed that would add girth but also add milk components for the next generation. Breeds of cattle that do that are called dual purpose. The Irish Dexters fall into this same category too.

In choosing a dual purpose breed, we also wanted to factor in the style of farming we do. We are grass farmers or graziers. Now we starting defining what we wanted to breed Kira with... a dual purpose variety that does well on pastures.

Since we had done some research in years past on the dual purpose breeds, we immediately knew exactly which we wanted to use. This morning, Kira was breed to a Normande sire through Artificial Insemination. That means a semen distributor came calling, stuck her hand and arm inside the cow to deposit what's called a straw filled with a bulls semen.

So why Normande? In my mind, because they just look awesome. Realistically, it's because when they are raised on rough forage, the Normande is very well known for quality in both the dairy and beef productions. Normande milk components are the best for making cheese. Carcass yield and marbling are superior. Normande cattle have also has retained exceptional qualities usually lost by specialized breeds, such as fertility, calving ease, excellent feet and legs and overall hardiness. For centuries, they were developed to become graziers and have excellent feed efficiency.

What's not to love about a cattle breed that works for both dairy and beef but is also an excellent pasture cow?  Besides, cross breeding promotes hybrid vigor where you retain a lot of the good qualities and dispel the bad. If you follow the link, there is more information on that.

From all the information we've read, researched and found this is our attempt to run a trial to see how it goes. Personally, I would love to have an entire herd of nothing but Normande. I just like the confirmation, body structure and it's dual purpose. I love the fact they are designed to be grazing animals. 

Now all we have to do is wait a whole 9 months to get a glimpse of the little one! Due Date: April 9th, 2015.

To learn more about Normandy Cattle, please visit the North American Normande Association.

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