We recently weaned calves. We always try to wean by October 1, so as to give the cows a good break before having their next calf in March or April. Weaning isn’t as simple as just putting the cows and calves in separate pens where the calves can no longer nurse their moms.
For the first six or seven months on a calf’s life, they get to nurse their mom plus eat grass, mineral, and supplements. They have had plenty of nutrients to grow and develop. Now, we have to help them with immunity and nutrition since they will no long have their mom’s milk. Here is how weaning day works:
First, everyone has their respective job, which must be done correctly in order for the day to go well. Teamwork. When we bring the herd in from the pasture, someone (usually Matt) is in charge of leading the pack and the rest follow behind. Sometimes I ride with Matt & sometimes I help follow up (I’m usually the one that will jump off the 4-wheeler and run in the road ditches to boost the stragglers) – depends if he waited at the gate for me to jump in the Mule with him.
Next, we sort. Teamwork! This is where, when I was a kid, I NEVER wanted the gate because I didn’t like getting yelled at. When cows are getting sorted out & you are the gate person, you are somehow supposed to hold several animals, way bigger than you, back because there is a calf in the mix. Trust me, it can’t be done easily! Our team seems to work very well together and make fast work of the sorting. Now, I have broad enough shoulders to take the gate. I just remind everyone, if they are mean to me, I’m not going to have as good of food when we get done. Their choice!
Then, cows are taken back to their respective pastures to graze and achieve optimum body condition prior to having their next calf, which is due in March/April.
Calves – well, TEAMWORK!!! We catch each calf in the squeeze chute to weigh it, give it vaccinations, and put in an “Age & Source Verification” ear tag. There are a number of individual tasks that have to be done well to make all of this go smoothly for the cattle and for the people doing the work.
You can see most of the team in that picture. Matt runs the headgate, Kaydee is on the squeeze, and Emmet, with his sprained ankle & avoiding much walking, is on the opposite side reading the scale. In the background are Jason, Frank, and Gavin, who bring the calves up to the chute. Where am I in all this you are asking? Oh, not to worry, I have my tasks as well. I was busy keeping the tagger ready, recording tag #’s and weights, and keeping the syringe full of vaccine. Kaydee gave the shots and Matt or I poured on the dewormer. I usually put the tags in the calves ears.
When everyone in on task and cheerful, working cattle goes really well & it is a lot of fun! There is plenty of joking around, but everyone is alert to everything at all times, so nothing gets missed and no one gets injured – cattle or people.
After the processing (giving shots, deworming, etc.) we put feed in the bunks and herd all of the calves toward the bunks to learn how to eat dry feed which is full of all of the nutrients they need.
Then, the team likes to get some nutrients for themselves – this year I got pizza for everyone & we hung out in the barn and listened to the Huskers…
The full day of hard work is done. Now – it’s feeding every day and checking every animal to make sure they are feeling food and eating well. Football to watch and a pen of calves to feed – I really love fall!