April marks the start of calving season at our Tomales Station in Marin County, just 5 miles from the coast. We recently caught up with our ranchers José Luis Flores and Bill Jensen to meet the calves and learn about the operation.

Bill, who was raised in Tomales, shared some interesting observations about this year’s winter weather. Growing up, he and his friends knew March as “Kite Month,” due to its cool and blustery, but often dry, conditions. This year was a particularly rainy season, with the wet conditions extending through the end of April. It left the ranch with an abundance of lush, green grass and some very happy cows, but sadly no kite flying. Over a dozen calves have been born this spring, and we are expecting about 90 total. On the day we visited, mother cows were carefully watching their calves, many of which were dozing off in the grass.

PASTURE BREEDING

In the summer months, José Luis transports our bulls, who live most of the year at our Mayacamas Estate, to Tomales Station. The cows are grouped into pastures in small herds of about 30 cows. Just one bull is placed in each pasture to breed with the females, since allowing more than one bull per pasture results in bullfights. The bulls remain in their respective pastures with the cows for about four months to ensure each cow will bear a calf. The gestation period lasts 305 days or about 10 months, so most of the cows give birth throughout the months of April & May.

FROM NURSING TO GRAZING

For their first few days of life, the calves will only nurse. Then around five or six days old they begin grazing, by watching their mothers and following their lead, they learn to nibble at the ground. The green, lush spring grass in Tomales is easy for them to digest, but the calves won’t rely solely on forage until they are weaned at around six and a half months. In November, José Luis and Bill will move the calves from their mothers into separate pastures and once the female calves mature, they will become part of the breeding program.