Quiet On The Set

Man inserting nose clip into calf in barnIt’s that time of year when the farm takes on the look of a movie production. It makes me think of Hannibal Lecter in his face-mask during the movie Silence of the Lambs.

Four of the oldest calves are ready to begin the weaning process. It takes only moments for the temporary clip to be inserted without pain or undue hardship. The new face guard is a simple green plastic clip that fits into their nostrils. The guard swings easily to allow for the calf to drink water and eat grass while getting in the way enough so the calf cannot attach to a mother cow for milk. The calves go back to grazing moments after the clip is inserted.

Black Angus with green nose clipThe clips will stay in the calves for about a week while the mother’s milk supply dries up.

We have found this kind of weaning process so much calmer for the calves and the cows. There are no frantic calves bellowing and begging for their mother (along with her milk supply) to reunite. There are no uncomfortable cows filled with milk, pacing the fence lines in hopes of jumping out to join their crying babies. There are no sleepless nights for the calves, cows or us humans.

The calves stay right next to their mothers in the pasture. They can be comforted by a mama’s touch with licks and nuzzles, they can nap while snuggled together. During the first 24 hours, the cows notice something is not quite right. Their bags fill with milk and they encourage their babies to relieve some of the pressure. And by the next morning the milk squirts with each step the cow takes from her over-full bag, but by the second morning the drying up process is already making the cow much more comfortable.

We have found the green weaner clips an easy experience for the milk-dependent calves. Within a week of the clips insertion, the cow has dried up and no longer is in production while the calf is ready to  begin the next phase of growing up were we move the weaned youngsters to the barn and private pasture where they can be pampered with all the hay, grass, pelleted grass seed grain and sliced apples they desire.

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