Thursday, April 7, 2011
Hand Me the Ear Tagger ... Stat!
I slap the instruments into Randy's hand as adeptly as a nurse in a surgery suite. (Or so I imagine.)
Let's just say the environment isn't quite as sterile as the hospital. But we care just as much about our "patients."
Each spring, we "work" the baby calves that have been born during the winter. (I talked about the gathering and sorting process yesterday.)
Jake herds each calf down an alley. (I should have taken a photo of a white-faced calf so you could actually see the calf, but I wanted to use the picture so you could see the process.)
The calf then enters a calf cradle. Using the calf cradle protects both the calf and the humans working with the cattle.
Randy gave two different immunizations to each calf.
One is Ultrabac7, an immunization to prevent blackleg.
The other is Bovi-Shield Gold 5, which prevents viral diseases in cattle.
People question the reasons for giving immunizations to an animal that will eventually enter the food chain. But the immunizations are just like giving immunizations to our own children. We are trying to keep the cattle healthy. Healthy cattle provide a good source of protein in the human diet.
Randy also implants Ralgrow into each calf's right ear. Ralgrow is a hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland and helps the calf grow faster.
The $1 injection will bring a $3 return. He believes it's a matter of using the technology available to more efficiently grow food for consumers. And yes, we eat the cattle we raise here on our farm, too.
He inserts an eartag into the calf's left ear. This is an identifying mark for our cattle herd.
He also castrates the bull calves. He prefers to do this when the cattle are babies because it's less stressful for them. He tips the calf cradle so he can perform the castration.
Castration is a management tool. Randy doesn't want bulls to indiscrimately breed heifers or cows. We purchase bulls (or raise them) for breeding purposes, looking at characteristics like calving ease and growth characteristics for their progeny.
In addition, supermarkets are required to label meat from bulls. Customers perceive meat from bulls is old and tough.
Mission accomplished: The babies are ready to be returned to their moms for their afternoon milk break.