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.
Minnie and her baby Mouse, along with Chardonnay and her baby Tank, are moved across the pasture to be loaded into the stock trailer.
The cows were moved to a neighbor farm in the spring to help keep the grass trimmed down throughout the summer and fall.
The cows were pregnant when we moved them to the neighbor farm, and have since calved and raised their babies well. It is now time for the babies to be weaned, so we are moving the mini-herd back home.
As you can see, Tank is ready big enough to be on his own away from this momma. Within a few weeks he will be in the bull pen with the rest of the weaned bulls.
The last eight calves born for this year’s calving season are being weaned. The count is four heifers and four bulls.
They have been separated from their mothers and get their fill of sweet grass hay while the weaning process has the mothers filling up with milk. By the third day, the mothers start to dry up and are not worried about their calves since they are content away from them.
After the final eight spent the three days in the barn across the river, they were loaded into the stock trailer and moved across the road to the show barn where I take over the care and feeding.
Since they are already comfortable putting their heads into the stanchions, they do not hesitate to start eating right away. The first day, I sprinkle some grass seed screening pellets onto the hay. All eight of them like the taste and within the week the group is eating about three gallons of pellets at each feeding. The sweetness of the molasses is the draw to get them started, and the pellets help fill their bellies.
Now that they are eating well, the bulls will be separated from the heifers. The four bulls will go out into the bull pen with the other weaned bulls. The heifers will get the freedom of the larger pen in the barn with the three other heifers from the last weaning. They also have access to an outdoor pen next to the barn.
Soon it will be time to start advertising the weaned animals for sale.