We've been busy busy this past week. In between shipping out truckloads of bred heifers, we also weaned our calves. Weaning is a big event in a calf's life. It is where their mamas are taken away and they have to adjust to eating grass, hay, and other forages. No more milk. We do this because it is time. If we leave them on the cow much longer, it draws the cow down, or makes them fall off. Basically they begin to loose body condition which is a horrible thing when the weather forecast calls for snow here this week. They need to put all of the energy they are getting out of their feed into fat reserves for themselves, and nourishment for the baby they will be having in a couple of months.
The weaned calves can go a couple of different directions in their life journey. They are either going to be fed out for the winter to be put with a bull next spring so that they become a breeding animal to raise more calves, or they will go to the feed lot where they will be fed a finishing ration and then harvested to provide nourishment and sustenance for us. We wean them and vaccinate them and get them going so they can gain well eating hay, so their transition to a feed lot or pasture for breeding will be easier and less stressful for them.
What we do is gather all of our pairs. A pair is a mother cow and her calf. Once we have them gathered into a lot or corral we sort the cows off of the calves. Sending the cows into a different holding area, be it another corral or field. This is not an easy task. The cows don't want to be separated from their calves or the calves separated from their mamas. After everything is sorted we process the calves through a chute and vaccinate them with different vaccines based on our geographical areas. We then sort the heifers from the steers and weigh them.
I'm sure you are familiar with the saying good fences make good neighbors. Good fences also make weaning much easier. We put the heifers and steers in separate lots with good fences between them. This keeps them from breaking through the fences and mixing. We also make sure there are good fences, and preferable a field or two separating the cows from the calves. It will take 4-5 days for the cows and calves to forget about each other.
We got the calves weaned and processed Thursday. We shipped out a truckload of bred heifers Friday, then spent most of the day fixing fence and re-weaning and sorting calves. It also sometimes doesn't matter how good your fences are, cows can be pretty persistent! Saturday was spent resorting the cows that were missed on Friday. Sunday we rebuilt more fence, and I think finally today the calves are fairly content with where they are at, and the cows have forgotten they had calves last week!