Sorting Heavies 2/16/2014

The first calf should be born on the ranch any day. The first thing we do on the ranch that marks the beginning of calving season is sorting heavies.  For those that may not know what I mean by “sorting heavies” I will give a quick description.

A “heavy” cow or heifer is one that is close to calving.  When we sort heavies, we bring in our stock and sort out the cattle that we think will calve in the next week or few days. Typically we sort any heifers that look due within a week and any cows due within a few days. Reason being, heifers have a higher risk of complication in birth due to the fact that it is their first time. I am somewhat new to picking out heavies, but my father-in-law is an old pro, and my husband is following suit. They can tell by looking at the bag (udders). They look for a bag that is full and taunt. A woman in a cattle forum said it best when she said “it should look like a rubber glove filled with water”.

Right now we are only sorting the heifers. Last summer due to drought, we sold our heifers to a buyer in Missouri because our pastures didn’t have the grass to support them. The buyer held them 5 months and had them bred and ultra-sounded, then we bought them back when our pastures improved. Due to the warmer weather in Missouri, most of them are due to start calving Feb. 15th (which is one day past). Our cows won’t start calving till March 1st.

When a heifer has her first calf, she is usually around 2 years old. A heifer’s body structure changes after her fist calf. She will grow more and her pelvic area will get larger. Because of this, older cows will give birth to larger calves without any incidence.

This time we sorted off 21 heifers. Sorting by horseback is the way we commonly do it, but recently we’ve had an abundance of snow followed by a couple 45 degree days. The corrals are a soupy mix of mud and slush making it a dangerous environment to be on horseback. Moreover, cattle also risk slipping in the mud and getting hurt. It works well to sort them on foot in conditions like these. Next time we sort heavies, I’ll elude more on where we are placing them.

As for now, we patiently wait for our first calf….

This is a heifer from last year, waiting for her calf to follow her out of the calving barn.


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