Family planning

On-Farm Family Planning | Outside

Here’s how things are supposed to work here at Miles Smith Farm:

We put Ferdinand, our bull, with the cows in August so that the resulting calves are born in March or April, so their mothers have months and months of free grass to eat to produce plenty of milk for the babies. Also, steers, which have been surgically disqualified as breeders, should not be interested in females and be prepared to stray.

The plan worked well last summer, but I bought a bunch of heifers in October. Two of them were already pregnant, but the others were “open”. I wanted them to be high, and soon. But I messed up. I put Ferdie and the heifers in one of our rented remote pastures, but Topper the steer was with them too.

Despite the castration in his resume, Topper appears to be unaware that he is a steer; he still loves females. And because he’s taller than Ferdinand, he can attract the cows’ attention and prevent Ferdie from mating. I knew all of that when I left him in that pasture, but I thought it would only be for a few days. I had planned to pick him up, but I got busy — there are things going on on a farm — and then our big “cow-taxi” truck broke down.

When we dropped off a load of pumpkins in this remote pasture in our little truck, Ferdie pulled away from the herd looking at me, wondering, “When are you going to get that stupid bull blocking steer out of here?” Unfortunately Topper shared the pasture with Ferdie and the girls until we could bring them home at the end of November.

Pregnancy tests confirmed that neither was pregnant. Rats! Rather than running out of calves, I broke my own breeding rules and gave Ferdie until February 1 to mate, this time without interference from the loving steer. If my calculations are correct, I could have a crop of babies in November 2022, not ideal, but better than no calves.

The two previously pregnant heifers are due soon so the calves will arrive in February, March, April and November this year.

There is an old Yiddish saying: “Man plans and God laughs”.

And speaking of planning, mark your calendars for two events: St. Patrick’s Day at the Farm on Saturday, March 12 and Easter at the Farm on Saturday, April 16, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. We might have a new calf or two to cuddle with! Learn more here:

Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm ( in Loudon, NH, where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local produce. She can be contacted at [email protected]