Sunday, September 7, 2014

Weaning calves

   Yesterday was a big day on the farm as we weaned all 130 calves that are under our care. All summer the calves and cows have been enjoying life in the pastures eating grass and living lazy days in the shade. With harvest just around the corner and the calves getting bigger every day we decided it was time to wean he calves.
    The calves have been growing well and are at the point where they need some extra supplement feed to grow into productive beef animals.  The mother cows and calves are not happy to be separated from each other but they will soon adjust and this is a necessary part of the beef production process. All the mother cows are now pregnant with their calf for next spring so it is healthy for them to wean this years calf so their body can focus energy on growing the unborn calf for next year.
       The first step in the process of removing the calves from the pasture is bringing all the animals up into a working area we have created in our different pastures. Each pasture has a little different set up depending on it's lay out. We did find that some working areas worked better than others.  This is the pasture behind our house so this working areas is on the back side of our barn.
       Here all the animals are gated into an area where we can work with them. As you can see we don't have sticks or whips. We find that if we act calmly around the animals and learn how to work with some of their natural instincts sorting and moving them goes much easier.
      Here you see the cows walking away from the working pen. The men inside the working area are patently filtering out the cows from the group and keeping the calves behind. It takes a lot of time and practice working with cattle to have this process go smoothly. There is a lot of noise with mooing and cattle are big animals that can move fast. You have to stay aware at all times and move and think fast.
        All the calves have been separated from the cows and are loaded into the trailer.  It is a little sad watching the cows as the trailer pull away and know that they won't see their calves again. The cows moo after their babies and will stand by the gate calling to them for days. After a while they will come to the gate less often and start to enjoys their days in the pasture like they did before.
         The calves are taken to our feedlot building and made comfortable. They are all a bit anxious and on edge calling to their mothers. They also will continue to bawl for about a week and then gradually they will start to settle into their new way of life and quite down.
        They are given some feed and look so small reaching into the feed bunks. It is hard to think that by next May they will be big full grown market animals filling up the whole barn.
       A group of cows that are in the yard look through the fence at the crying calves in the barn. At this time it is important to have strong gates and pasture fences that are working at well.
       Here is a video of the calves in the barn just after weaning. Watch it as hear how loud they are. Now just imagine it going on day and night for about a week.

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