The last calves to be weaned are now comfortably residing in the show barn while they learn the basics of eating in a manger. It’s not as easy as one would think.
These calves have had minimal human contact even though they had been fed twice a day. But it’s different when their mothers are not nearby and when the hay is not laying rows spread out across the field.
Here inside the barn, the calves learn to lift their head up in order to slip their ears through the V of the stanchions, then not flinch when the cold metal hits their necks or when the metal clanks. We do not lock them into the head gates at this stage, they have free access to hay and grain 24 hours a day while they learn the advantages to not being bossed around by the bigger animals. They are really happy with the sliced apples we have been tossing in with their grain and wait along the stanchions for their share at each meal.
In a couple of days the bulls will be separated from the heifers. The bulls will be moved out with the other weaned boys living in the bullpen and the heifers will have this side of the barn and out into the barnyard that wraps around the left side of the barn.
Just as the calves that had been loaned out to a neighbor farm for the summer had completed the weaning process, we started the next batch of three with their own clips.
These are the two heifers and one bull from the show barn and they have now been outfitted with their own weaner clips.
These youngsters have been used to putting their head in the stanchions since they were born so the process for them is very smooth. All the hay, chopped apples and grain they want keeps them happy while the mothers are fed in a separate area.
In about 4-5 days these three will be moved away from their mothers completely and the weaner clips will be removed.
Three bull calves have had the plastic green weaners inserted into their nostrils (the third one moved too quickly to get a pic). These three are the largest bulls from this years crop and weigh over 700 lbs each, it is time for them to be weaned from their mothers.
The new jewelry does not hurt the calves in any way. They can still eat hay and drink water normally. The only thing that they cannot do is nurse because the green ring gets in the way. Continue reading
The calves have been enjoying the springtime weather and the grass that has been growing quickly.
One calf found his way on top of an old fir stump out in the barnyard. The calf seemed happy to be king of the mountain, and he watched others as they came by but did not let anyone else climb up his high perch. He was very good at defending his ground.
It was after the others left, leaving the one calf was standing all alone on his stump, when it looked like the calf was in a quandary about the proper way to disembark from the perch. He stood there quite a while, with what appeared to be a forlorn look until finally getting up enough nerve to jump down and catch up with his penmates.
The time has come for the older calves to get their numbered eartags. We try to wait at least a month or two before clipping the tags into their ears because newborns have such tender skin and cartilage. The weight of a tag can actually malform the growing appendage causing a droopy ear for the rest of their lives. It would not hurt the calf by having a droopy ear, it just looks sad.
We tagged the 6 older calves that are out in the nursery field across the river with the next step being watch to see which calf nurses from which mother to determine the pairs. I keep my phone handy for note-taking when feeding so I can match the numbers and still be able to have that information correct when I get back to the house.
The calves were slow to get up at feeding time because the sun was shining. The critters were flopped this way and that, some lolling flat on their sides in the damp grass.
The group of sunbathers began moving when one calf decided that a bit of hay sounded tempting. One by one they got up and meandered over to their mothers to nibble awhile before nursing again.
Sitka and her calf Willow along with Quiet and SBD sneak out of the barn for a frolic in the fresh snow.
SBD is only about 24 hours old and has had his fair share of mud, grass, rain and now snow. He is much stronger today than he was yesterday and tries to run after Willow but has trouble keeping up.
Both cows are careful to keep their own babies close to them for now but within another day or two the calves will bond and become close friends.