It has been quite a life for Tank, the little calf born to Chardonnay.
Our loaner herd of four cows had been happily grazing at the neighbor farm to assist the farmer manage the overgrown grass in the pastures around his place. That was 17 months ago.
Chardonnay was pregnant when we moved her to be loaned. She has had nine calves already and was well-seasoned in the art of delivering beautiful, healthy babies. With all the spring grass she could eat, she delivered a beast of a baby and we named him Tank. He was born on June 1st and weighed 87 lbs. He was the largest calf born from our herd in 2015. An he was born hungry, he thrived on the loaner farm with Chardonnay giving lots of milk and the continuing grass supply. Continue reading
With the assistance of our right-hand-helper, the last eight calves have had their green nose rings inserted. These last calves of the season are getting pretty big and we needed a little extra muscle to control the calves that are ranging upward to 800 lbs.
The mother cows have been doing an exceptional job of producing nourishing milk to their babies while they are also eating hay and grazing throughout the day. The moms are ready for the calves to stop nursing, besides they have the important task of giving nutrients to the babies that are already developing inside them.
In three days, we will again move the herd into the barn where we will separate the calves from the mothers. The mothers will be moved to the far field across the river where the grass has been growing and will be a good spot to hang out for up to a week. The calves will be loaded into the stock trailer for their first ride and brought over the river and across the road to the show barn where I will introduce them to sliced apples, grain and all the hay they can eat.
Many of these calves have already been spoken for and will be ready for sale as soon as they are eating well and have their vet check completed.
The last of the weaning is just another sign that the seasons are changing as we gear up for winter weather. Looking ahead, less than two months to go before we start seeing new calves from the mothers that were bred early.
We are down to the last batch of weaning for the year. The final 8 calves have now had their green weaners placed in their noses.
Once the clips are installed, the calves need to take an few minutes to get used to the new jewelry. The smooth plastic does not hurt the calves and it does not stop the calves from eating grass and hay or from drinking water. It seems confusing to them that when they nuzzle the cow that they cannot seem to get their tongue around the device in order to nurse.
The calves are big enough to grow well without the mothers milk they are used to and the cows need to begin preparing for the new offspring that they are already pregnant with.
It won’t be long before we start the new round of calving.
The process for a calf to go from their mothers side to be ready for sale is about a month, if all goes smoothly.
Currently, another five calves have had their green weaners inserted, that was four days ago. Today we move them away from the herd into their own barn and will remove the green nose clips.
Since they are across the river, we will use the stock trailer to move them over the bridge to cross the water and the county road. The amazing amount of rain we have had this month may mean that the tractor will be hooked to the trailer so the pickup does not sink in the soft turf around the pastures and barns.
The calves will be housed for a few weeks in the show barn with limited pasture so that I will be able to keep an eye on their progress learning about the head gates (stanchions), eating hay from the manger, and spoiling them with slices of sweet fall apples.
These animals have already been spoken for. We have received their official registration papers from the American Angus Association and will be getting their vet check in the next week or two along with tattoos in their ears for identification. Once these items have been complete, they will be headed off to a farm on the other side of Portland.
There is a newly weaned heifer in the barn that is stupid. Or stubborn. Or maybe she is cunning enough to have me trained to do her bidding. I haven’t figured out for sure which statement is true.
Going on three weeks now, we moved the heifer into the show barn so that I could spend time with her and get her used to sticking her head into the stanchions to reach her food. She is a fairly gentle animal, she is not skittish when I walk near her, she lets me touch her when I am close by, she will even eat pieces of fruit from my hand when I offer her a sliced pear or apple. But she will not stick her head in through the thick metal bars to eat.
When weaning calves that have been used to eating grass in the pasture or hay that is dropped on the ground, the idea of picking their head up and over the ‘v’ shape of the metal bars to eat out of the manger is a foreign concept. Many times it will take several days before a calf figures out the idea, once and a while it will take up to a week. But this heifer simply can’t figure it out. She will stick her nose though gaps in the bars and snag one spear at a time with her long tongue but will not move over a few inches and lift her head.
I have put bales of hay below the fluffy hay and she still reaches through the small bars instead of getting full mouth-fulls. She tears at the hay and ends up pulling large quantities out by her feet that gets wasted by getting stomped in poop.
I set hay in a round tub on top of a bale, she will lift stick her head to eat off the top of the tub but once the tub slides to the floor or gets knocked over, she cannot reach any more food.
During the feeding time, all the other heifers are munching happily away. I have to lock them away from this area so I can get this little one to eat. I have to keep moving the tub so she has access to the hay.
This heifer is stupid, or maybe she really is smarter than she appears.
As we get ready to wean most of the calves that were born this year, we have to make some decisions about the quality and size of our cattle herd. Several of the heifers are ready for sale, 2 of the 3 spring yearling bulls and one of the young yearling bulls has been spoken for already.
We had 2 of our most senior cows with their newborn calves at a neighbors farm since spring. Their job,along with 2 other cow/calf pairs, was to trim down the grass fields that were growing fast during the cool spring weather.
We moved the 2 older cows with their calves home for a few days to get the calves used to the new surroundings before we hauled the 2 senior cows to the auction. The older cows had been good mothers and each delivered 9 calves over the last 9 years, but one was having issues with her feet and struggled each winter as her calf grew heavy inside her. The other was several years older and was no longer fertile.
Culling the herd is an ongoing concern throughout the year but during the late summer we usually trim the herd heavily in an effort to survive the winter without purchasing extra hay for the animals. Thinning out of the herd is a necessity to keep the farm working at a sustainable and manageable level.
The young calves in the show barn are getting daily rations of chopped apples to add nutrition and natural energy to their hay and grass screening pellets.
These two calves have already been weaned from mothers milk and the apples are a great way to keep them interested in feeding schedules and eating.
We have only been doing this the last two weeks and already these calves stand in their feeding spots and watch as the apples are cut and distributed before diving into their dinner.
They are becoming more vocal about how much time it takes to get the apples to them, or beg for just a few more after the portion is gone.