Here at Point Reyes Farmstead, we birth about one to two baby bovines a day. But the process starts well in advance. Brannon, our Herd Manager, begins breeding our heifers at 15 months old, so they’ll be about two when they have their first calf. The gestation period is the same as humans – nine months.
When a cow is within 30-45 days of calving she is moved to our Maternity Close-Up Barn. Get it? Because she’s close-up to delivering. But when she gets really close, our Herd Manager moves her to a Birthing Pen for a quiet and clean delivery. Most cows can deliver unassisted, but we always have someone on hand to help. (Especially when we have twins, about 10x per year!)
After the calves are born their mamas clean them up and assist them in standing up. The calves are then brought to our on-farm nursery (just like a hospital!) where they are each bottle-fed their mother's own colostrum. The colustrum, followed by a few weeks of fresh pasteurized milk and grain, fortifies their immune system and helps them double in size. Yes, this is the period of ultimate calf cuteness.
At one month old each calf is moved to a communal calf barn until she is ready (big and strong enough) to enjoy life on pasture, starting at about four months old. A little more than a year later, she's ready for breeding to become a mama herself!