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Mr Winchester

Garth Brown |

This is our bull Mr Winchester. In cattlespeak he's the herdsire. He's the only male bovine on the farm who is fully intact if you catch my drift. Actually, come to think of it, that's not quite true. I have two bull calves I need to castrate.

Normandy caught some photos of him while he crossed the street to go do his primary job. I separated him from most of the herd back in May after the first two calves arrived. Once a cow is no longer pregnant there's a chance she'll settle if a bull is at hand. In the case of a May calf and quick breed-back that would make for a February calf. I don't know about you, but catching calves in the snow with a stiff -10 degree breeze does not sound like my idea of a good time. Cattle gestate for about 9 months, so by turning him into the cow herd now I'm targeting next May/June as my calving window. I'd actually have turned him in back on July 15th, but I was negotiating with a buyer for our purebred Kerry Cows and it was unclear whether we should let Mr W do his thing or send the cows "open". We have that issue sorted out now, so in he goes.

The first year we had him we put him in with the herd on July 1st and we got calves in April. Apparently his lineage has been selected for calving ease, which is synonymous with short gestation. A shorter gestation allow a little less time for the calf to get too big while still inside its momma. Small birth weight calves rarely win the biggest calf at weaning contest, but they have vastly more value than dead calves. DOA calves have distressingly low weaning weights.

He has the right build for easy finishing on grass and he fattens readily. He has what appear to be short legs because he's so "deep" in the chest. All these photos show him in profile, but head-on he's also very wide. That depth and girth allows for a bigger set of guts which are an advantage when one's diet consists of hard to digest roughage. He's actually a bit over-fat since he's been on reasonably good pasture without a lot to do other than eat and stand at the fence staring across the road at the rest of his herd. I did keep one cull cow in with him through the separation because I believe a little company helps to keep bulls calmer and nicer.

Two years ago I bought him from Morgan Hartman of Black Queen Angus. I've been really pleased with his performance on my farm under my management and I like the look of his offspring a lot. Morgan linebreeds his cattle and the stock he uses come out of a herd that's been linebred for a long time. I think there are clear potential advantages to using linebred bulls in operations like mine, but the development of those linebred animals should be left to specialty producers like Black Queen Angus. Farms of my scale, and even those that are somewhat bigger, should not dabble in it without clear goals. Garth wrote a long piece last winter about this topic if you want to read more on it.

When they first see him most people want to know how much he weighs. The honest answer is I have no idea. If I had to put money on it though I'd guess at least 2000 lbs. Our cows weigh about 1000 give or take two hundred pounds and he's much more massive.


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