Weaning Time

Rounding up the cow herd takes lots of people! Unfortunately, I get the least favorite job--calling the cows. I drive the pickup that leads them to the catch pen. Everyone else drives a 4-wheeler or ATV to round them up! I'm in the good old feed truck. Honking the horn, alerts the cows to my presence, and the alfalfa pellets or buckets of grain I have in the bed of the pickup lures them along. This week we're weaning calves and my husband and I have our three teenage boys to help us.
Once the cows and calves see my pickup and hear me honking the horn and calling to them, they come running! The want to see what "treats" I have for them today! I spread a bit of the pellets and grain on the back for them to taste and they will follow me anywhere! Cows love grain! I know there has been a lot of information on the internet about force feeding cattle corn, but I am here to tell you that a cow LOVES corn and will run me over to get to it! These girls rarely get corn, except as an enticement to come to the catch pens, but they will follow me anywhere when I have a bucket of corn based grain!
Today we're weaning our bull calves. They are now 8-months old and weigh around 700 pounds. Their mamas are pregnant with another calf and are due in February and March, so they need to be weaning these calves and putting on some fat for the winter. Above, a bull calf gets a last sip of milk from his mama before we wean him.

After gathering the herd, we sort the cows back into the pasture and load up the calves to take them home. There are many ways to wean and we've found this works best for us. The cows will wander the catch pen where they last saw their calf for a day or so, but after that, they are happy to go back to eating grass. The calves do bawl for their mamas for a few days, but we immediately get them eating a silage/hay mixture and getting used to us. In a previous blog, I talk about one of the important jobs that I call "imprinting" or getting the cattle used to having humans around. Check it out here: Bad Weather? Work is not cancelled on a ranch!

Weaning time means that lots of work is ahead for the next few months. Calves in a pen need fed every day, and provided a dry place to lie down, as well as room to romp. They must be watched for signs of illness and we treat with antibiotics when signs of a secondary infection appear. Once winter arrives, the work really ramps up! As I get older, winter is less and less fun, but I still wouldn't change my life for anything! I love the cows and calves and I look forward to calving season each year. Weaning time is like harvest for grain crops. Our calves will end up as breeding bulls, breeding heifers, and the steers go to the feedyard.

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