Of (Gorgeous) Gretchen and (Amazing) Grace
In 2009, while on a short summer visit to Dora Lee in Ontario, Dad and I took several tours of the cow-herd. It is sometimes nice to be away from the home farm for a while. When you come back, you notice changes more readily – specifically the younger cows who have developed a lot in the course of a year. The summer of 2009 was wet in Ontario, and in mid July the cows were still up to their bellies in grass (indeed, in the river flats, we were peering through grass that was over the height of the gator to see cattle). This was a sharp contrast to the dry year we were having in Central Alberta, where the pastures were already beginning to show stress.
Jeanne and I were still only a couple of years into developing Applecross and, despite an amazing set of heifer calves of our own, I was determined to continue to expand our numbers – and add at least one more Dora Lee female. Mom and Dad had developed quite a number of impressive cow families over the years. Although I had already tapped into a number of them, there were still a couple of others that I wanted to try and obtain genetics from. 2009 was also the year Dora Lee Eclipse came into his own – he put a clear stamp on his heifer calves (they always seemed to stand with their heads up; showing off their long neck with lots of power). He also had quite a number of impressive bred heifers and first calvers. We already had three Eclipse females of our own, but all three were horned. Thus, my objectives were defined – find a polled Eclipse female from an outcross cow family. If I was really lucky (and the price was right), maybe I’d be able to find two heifers (or even better, an instant cow family in a cow-heifer calf pair).
After touring the herd several times, I held my cards close. I had my eye on three calves and one pair – but what was Dad willing to sell? He named a price and gave me pick of the entire heifer calf crop. While the price was higher than I had hoped (and eliminated the pair idea), I couldn’t have asked for more selection, from what was an amazing group of heifer calves. Dad, knowing we were in drought and short grass, also offered to winter her, AI her to the bull of my choice and then have her delivered in the spring. It was a really great opportunity – but what to pick?
I took Jeanne out for one last tour. Jeanne gives me a pretty free hand in selecting cattle, but always has (good) input, and has a big influence on naming the calves (both here at Applecross and previously at Dora Lee). After seeing the four calves I was interested in, we selected a polled Arnold’s Image daughter from an Eclipse dam. She was a younger (March) calf, but exuded femininity and was cherry red to her hooves. I am also a sucker for older proven genetics, and had always wanted an Arnold’s Image female to walk beside some of the other classics we already have (King Arthur, C&B Western and Antonius). Picking an AI sire was easy – LJB Jade. I was with dad when he bought the semen, and we had debated his merits many times. The combination of outcross genetics, calving ease, and knowing he sires powerful females himself, made Jade a quick decision.
While Jeanne and I name calves at birth, Mom and Dad usually wait until weaning is done; which also gave us the ability to name our new heifer. Our new calf’s mother was named ‘Geneveve’, and traditionally we follow the dam for daughters and the sire for bulls; leading to the requirement of a ‘G’ name. This led to the inevitable sit-around-the-kitchen table and throw names out. It often gets quite silly, but is always a lot of fun – especially since Jeanne and I each have veto power over names. Dad came up with ‘Gorgeous’ – simply based on her appearance, and how she stood with her head up – as if she knew she was gorgeous, too. Unfortunately, Jeanne vetoed ‘Gorgeous’, and we eventually settled on ‘Gretchen.’ Although for the rest of that year, Dad and I both talked about ‘Gorgeous’ and how she was developing.
In May 2010, Gorgeous – I mean Gretchen – made her trip west, safe in calf to Jade, and settled in nicely at her new home in Alberta. She was the first cow due for us, and we anticipated a New Years baby. Early on January 2nd, 2011, Gretchen gave us an unassisted heifer calf. Cherry red, with a single goggle, she has lots of neck and is already showing thickness. She also appears polled. While in some ways I was hoping for a bull calf (seems hard to find outcross, calving ease herd sires), I am not disappointed in the least. She has been named ‘Grace’, and was promptly nicknamed ‘Amazing’ by Dad. She is amazing – and we are amazingly lucky! Grace had a 25% chance of being a polled female, with the odds even lower that she would also have the colour pattern and phenotype that we think will make a powerful cow.
Thinking back to 2009 and our goal of adding an outcross cow-calf pair to our program; 2 years later we have been incredibly lucky to have turned the purchase of one, top-end heifer calf into just that. We really enjoy developing cow families, and a polled Arnold’s Image female walking beside her polled LJB Jade daughter is exciting for us. They are a great young pair to help anchor our herd, and an ‘Amazing’ start to the ‘Gorgeous’ cow family here at Applecross.