Away in a Manger

Away in a Manger

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Leaving the "Nest"

Some cow mamas at the County Line are discovering what it's like to have an empty nest.

As a mama who's been there, I can relate. I can't help but feel just a little sorry for the moms, who do a little pacing when first separated from their offspring.


We human moms watch our "babies" drive away with their school cars packed full of clothing and towels and life's "essentials." The bovine moms watch as their babies are toted away in the back of a cattle trailer.

But, just like with we human mothers, it's part of a cycle of life. And so it continues on the County Line.

November is weaning time around here. At the Ninnescah pasture, we rounded up the babies and mama cows. We separated them and then hauled the calves, while the moms stayed behind for a few days.

Kind of like a well-baby check for humans, we stopped by the co-op and weighed the trailers. Randy used that information to estimate how much weight the calves had gained since their January/February births.

After a short ride, they disembarked at the farmstead.

We keep the weaned calves in the corrals for a couple weeks to get used to being separated from their moms. It also gets them acclimated to eating hay and silage instead of nursing their mothers. They are less likely to be "spooked" by deer or other animals when they are in the corrals, which reduces the chance of them breaking through a fence.

Monday, we had the veterinarian come and "work" the weaned calves. They received the same shots as the older cattle in the herd.

Dr. David Harder and his assistant for the day, Devin Dick (interestingly enough a Wichita State decathlete), gave it the tag team approach, each giving some of the shots.

Some of the heifer calves may eventually become part of the cow-calf herd. So Dr. Harder also gave those heifers a calfhood vaccination to prevent brucellosis, also known as "bangs." This disease causes abortion or premature calving. The vaccination must be performed by an accredited veterinarian, in compliance with state and national regulations.

Dr. Harder used a device to "tattoo" the animal to show it had received the brucellosis vaccination.

Then he used green ink to mark the tattoo.

He added a numbered orange band, but those can fall out. The tattooing provides a more permanent mark.

Here's a close-up of calf 008's orange tag.

Dr. Harder will turn the numbers in to state and federal regulators.

He also treated a few of the calves for the cattle version of "pink eye," an ailment that human moms can definitely relate to.

They worked 107 calves on Monday. Besides the shots and vaccinations, the doctor also gave growth implants to the calves we plan to sell next spring.

On Monday, they didn't bring an assistant to record numbers on the computer laptop. Randy resorted to our "low-tech" method. He wrote down the numbers of the calves that received calfhood vaccinations in his little black book. He also wrote down numbers of some that might become 4-H steers for a neighbor family.

The calves will spend a few more days in the corral, before Randy lets them out into a small pasture just south of the house.

And just like we human mamas, the bovine mothers settle into life with an empty nest. However, unlike me, these moms will be back in the thick of motherhood next January and February when their next baby is born. ... Stay tuned!

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