Weaning Calves 9.22.14
Fall is a busy time at our house. We just finished with harvest and now we are on to the next task, weaning calves. Listen to this week's radio segment about weaning calves below.
These calves were born last spring, and now they are old enough to live on their own. Before the calves move to their new home, each calf is weighed and given vaccines to prevent common disease, kind of like getting shots before you head back to school.
To start this process we move all of the cattle from the pasture to a corral. Then we separate the cows from the calves. The cows get put into a pen and the calves start moving through a chute. At the front of the chute, the calves are weighed, and then held in a headlock. The headlock restrains the calf for the safety of both the farmer and the animal. The calf gets two quick shots and is then let out into a pen where fresh water and feed are waiting.
On our farm, the calf pen is right next to the pen for the cows. The calves are next to their moms and can see and nuzzle each other through the fence. We call this fence-line weaning, and it makes the transition easier for both the cows and calves. Like living away from home for the first time, weaning can be stressful on the cows and calves. Generally cattle are quiet, only mooing if something disturbs them. During weaning the cows and calves call for each other for a couple days. Soon though, both groups have adjusted and are eating peacefully.
After five days, the cows head back to the pasture. The calves stay in the pen over the winter, and are fed a mixed ration each day. The ration changes with the calves’ weight and age, and includes all the nutrients calves need.
Weaning calves can be a long exhausting day, but having friends and family around always seems to make the work a little easier.