Twenty-year-old cow gives birth to 18th calf

‘The cattle business would be easy if you had 100 like her,’ Saskatchewan producer says of durable and prolific bovine

The ideal beef cow is likely one that has a healthy, good-sized calf every year, never needs to be treated beyond the usual vaccinations, has a good temperament and lives a long life on the ranch.

Lorne and Alan Peek have such a cow.

This year the Charolais/Angus cross cow, now 20 years old, gave birth to her 18th calf.

“I wish we’d had a hundred of her,” said Lorne Peek.

“We’ve had a couple cows similar but never quite as good. She’s been by far the best one, as far as longevity and all that. The cattle business would be easy if you had 100 like her.”

The brothers, now semi-retired, sold most of their herd to neighbours, but this cow, affectionately dubbed Moose because of her colouring and facial structure, remains on the farm near Dundurn, Sask., and will live out her life where she has grazed and raised a calf almost every year.

“She’s not the most pretty colour of cow, but she’s certainly a durable cow,” he said.

When Moose popped out a heifer calf this spring, the Peeks were surprised because they thought her mothering days were over. The cow had missed a couple seasons of calving in the past, but two sets of twins over the years made up the total of 18.

Peek said he can’t recall ever having to treat Moose for any illness, and her calves have always been among the best in the herd.

The cow’s docile nature has resulted in her becoming a bit of a pet that knows her name when called.

“Some of the neighbours even know who that cow is, and say, ‘hey, how is Moose doing,’ ” said Peek.

Twenty-year-old cows are unusual but not unheard of, said Dr. John Campbell of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon.

“Obviously lifespan and culling decisions can be affected by economics as much as biology,” he said in response to queries.  

Ron Torell, a former University of Nevada livestock extension specialist, has calculated that most beef cows pay for themselves by age six, so the longer a cow stays in the herd, the more valuable it becomes.

By that standard, Moose is a valuable cow indeed.

However, she certainly isn’t the oldest cow on record at this stage of her life. Wikipedia, admittedly not the most reliable source of information, indicates that an Irish cow by the name of Big Bertha, who died in 1993, holds the longevity record at 48 years of age. The cow was a favourite at fairs and parades, so her owner reportedly gave her whiskey to “steady her nerves” at public appearances.

Moose, living quietly on the Peeks’ Saskatchewan farm, hasn’t had the need for such supplemental libations.

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