Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Siobhan's News

When Siobhan's AI breeding by Bickett Genetics didn't take and she came back in season, I called them to see what the next step was.  Two weeks later I hadn't heard back, and I was getting desperate to get her bred before she gets too old and too fat (both of which can make it harder).

So I went to the internet and looked up ADCA breeders in our area, particularly Freedom Farms in Philadelphia, TN.  We had visited Warren and Sally Coad there some time ago after seeing a majority of Freedom Farms bred Dexters walk off with prizes at the Annual General Meeting.  We were very impressed with the Coads' breeding program and dedication to the breed.

We're a bit late in the season to be making arrangements for breeding, but Sally was very helpful.  She looked up Sara's pedigree (since Siobhan isn't registered yet) and determined by her photo that she is long-legged (or in Dexter terms, not a Chondro carrier).  Siobhan is long-legged, too.  In that case, the Coads have a bull on-farm that they were willing for us to bring Siobhan to.

So on Aug. 22, after Herb got home from class, we got Siobhan up into the round pen and loaded her onto the trailer for her honeymoon voyage.  I will tell you that she was not impressed by the voyage itself, and when I got into the trailer at Freedom Farms to put a lead rope on her halter, she stepped on both my feet and swatted her tail so vigorously that I was generously splattered with wet manure!  Once the gate came down, though, she couldn't wait to get into the field to meet Cash and his current leading lady.

Cash hurried to meet Siobhan, and the other cow followed behind.

Siobhan headed the other way  . . .

. . . and Cash wasn't far behind.

 Follow the leader.

Cash thought Siobhan might be up for a little romance on short acquaintance, but in bovine language, she had a headache.

This is probably a good place to discuss Dexter genetics.   The following information is adapted from Freedom Farm's website and their Bull page where Cash can be found.  His full registered name is:

FF Lil' Christmas Cash #024435Heterozygous Polled, Heterozygous A2, Red carries no Dun, Chondro Carrier, PHA Free

His description means that he has one horned parent and one polled one so he has one gene for each; he has one A2 gene for milk; he is red so he has at least one red gene; he is a "Chondro Carrier," meaning he is short-legged (explanation to follow); and he is free of PHA (Pulmonary Hypoplasia with Anasarca; in short, a genetic mutation that can cause aborted calves).

Here is how the Coads explain the "Chondro" issue on their website:

Dexters come in Short Legged (Chondro Carriers) and Long Legged (Non Chondro Carriers).  We here at Freedom Farms feel they are of equal merit and breed for both Shorts and Longs.  Shorts mature to beef a few months earlier than Longs and have a "cuteness" factor that cannot be denied.  The Longs are easier to milk without a milking platform of some type and can be bred to Short bulls.  Chondro (Chondrodysplasia) can be a lethal gene if a Short to Short breeding occurs. For that reason responsible breeders and caring owners always breed their Shorts to Longs which will result in 50% of the calves being short and 50% of them being long.

Sally told me that if when they saw Siobhan she had turned out to be short-legged, they would not have let us breed her to Cash.  I'm glad to know that even though they breed for both short- and long-legged Dexters, they are very careful to maintain healthy breeding practices that improve the breed.

So with this breeding, we have 0% chance of a calf with a lethal gene for Chondro, 50% chance of a short calf (Chondro carrier) and 50% chance of a long-legged calf (non-Chondro carrier).  Since we have a 50% chance of getting a bull which we will eat, I'm not too worried about it!

We would have preferred to breed to a homozygous polled bull, but we know it's not a big deal to de-horn a calf.  Also, many people prefer horned Dexters.  We have a 25% of getting a horned calf and 75% of getting one with one horned gene and 25% of getting a polled calf.

Since Cash is red (that means he has two red genes) and Siobhan has one red gene from her sire and one black one from Sara, we could get a red calf.  Herb is my genetic expert (meaning he's better at math!), and he says we have a 50% chance of getting a red calf.  Whatever we get, it will carry a red gene.

The most important thing to me is that the Coads breed for "excellence (conformation and temperament) and genetic diversity," to quote their website.  Cash's mother is a proven milker, so that's one more good thing.  Temperament is probably our number one priority with good conformation for  milk and beef production as our second-highest priority.

So we're very excited about this calf, and I'm also relieved that Siobhan's first calf will be smaller--and give me lots fewer reasons to worry!

 Meanwhile back at home, Sara is in the barnyard eating away at our supply of winter hay and not showing any signs at all of calving.  She is certainly enjoying her twice daily feed (mixed with mineral salt and DE, as you can see on her nose), but we are getting ready to call the vet because we can't believe she would be 8 days overdue.

We're wondering if she's just been faking it!

By the way, I think Sara looks like an understudy for "Jurassic Park" in this photo!
Misty is still on guard at night, and she sits on Zephyr whenever she thinks it's needed.

We're sure Siobhan is enjoying the romantic attentions of Cash and not even missing us, but we sure miss her!

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