Our main herd of cows across the river have been giving us clues that it is time to move them to new grazing areas. Some of the more mature, senior cows stand at the fence line longingly looking toward greener pastures. But before we moved the herd there was a little housekeeping in the veterinary sense that needed to be taken care of. The older calves have ear tags already and now there are five more that are old enough to get their own number.
We moved the herd toward the barn making sure we had the correct calves mixed in with several momma cows. The rest of the herd was locked out so we didn’t have too many bodies in the way while we worked. The barn is set up with stanchions (head gates) for the cows to slip their heads in to eat hay in the manger. The stanchions are way too large for the young calves so we have to capture them another way.
We are not fond of roping and hog-tying them like you see during the calf roping competition at rodeos, and we do not have a small squeeze chute that would hold the calf still during veterinary checks or ear tag insertions. We have come up with a gentler, quieter and usually calmer way to work with individual calves.
Two gates that can swing toward the wall make a triangle space for the calf. The gates are brought closer and closer so they hold the calf in place. Most calves have no choice but to stand still for the moments it takes to take their temperature, check for injuries or to insert an ear tag. Many stick their small heads through the gate which actually holds them in a comfortable spot. My job is to hold the two gates firm to the calf as it jockeys for a way out, Mike is quick with the ear tag device. A single rope woven between the two gates is all we need to cinch the confined pen space. As soon as the calf has his new ear tag, I wait for him to pull his head back out of the gate before swinging them open letting the calf rejoin the herd.
The herd, with the newly decorated calves, walked single file straight across the hay field to where they have more than a week of grass and clover to munch on.