Friday, April 11, 2014

Well-Baby Checks

Gathering the mamas and the babies from the pasture south of our house. I was taking the photo into the sun, so it's not the best quality.
When Jill and Brent were infants, I took them to well-child checks at the pediatrician. They were different than the last-minute appointments we made for ear infections and other ailments. Well-child checks were designed for the pediatrician to evaluate their health status and give any recommended vaccinations.

Our baby calves undergo a similar process each spring. For this appointment, Randy fulfills the role of "physician's assistant." He certainly doesn't have the education of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. We do use a veterinarian for many of our cattle herd's health needs. But this is a task that Randy does, with help from Jake and me.

The process starts by gathering the mama cows and the calves. The method varies, depending on the location. To work the calves at Peace Creek, we use 4-wheelers to drive the cows and calves a half mile to the corrals and working chute. But, for the other three locations, we gather the cows and calves into a corral.
Then, we separate the mamas from the babies after herding them into a smaller corral.
I never can get photos of that process. You see how you do with trying to get 1,200-pound mamas to go through the gate, and, all the while, trying to corral baby calves who seem to be channeling their inner Usain Bolt.
The mamas end up with that "first-day-of-kindergarten" feeling being separated from their babies.
"Hey, Bessie, I know they went into the barn."

"Oh wait! I think I hear them around the corner."
"I know they're in that trailer, Bessie!"

We use the trailer to transport the babies to the corrals where Jake lives. 
Then, each calf comes down the lane toward the working chute.

I keep things lined up and ready to use, including the ear tagger. We used numbers beginning with "4" this year to indicate the babies were born in 2014.

The babies go, one at at time, down a lane and into a calf cradle - a miniature squeeze chute. Jake gets the unenviable job of pushing the calves down the lane and is sometimes rewarded with a swift kick for his efforts.
We'll let this little black baldy illustrate the process. Once the calf is in the calf cradle, the "doctor's appointment" begins. First, he received his number, 445, and an ear notch. We use those to identify our cattle. Some cattle operations brand their cattle instead.

This year, for the first time, Randy had his name and phone number engraved on the back of the ear tag.
Then, the baby calf and his friends got Tic-Tac-sized growth implants in their right ears. Ralgrow is a hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland and helps the calf grow. The $1 injection will bring a $3 return. Randy 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.
We give each calf two injections. One is Ultrabac 7, an immunization to prevent blackleg. The other is Bovi-Shield Gold 5, which prevents viral diseases in cattle. People often question the reasons for giving immunizations to animals that will eventually enter the food chain. But these injections are like giving immunizations to our own children. It helps keep the calves healthy, and healthy cattle provide a good source of protein in the human diet.
The bull calves, like Number 445, also become steers during their time in the chute. (The following series of three photos was taken another day, but they were better quality than the ones I took this year, so I'm using them instead.)
Randy makes an incision in the sac.
He pulls the testicles through the incision.
And then he cuts the cords, adding a squirt of iodine for germ control.

With all the steps done,  No. 445 rejoins his fellow "class"mates - none the worse for wear. (He's along the fence at the back - easy to see with his white face!)
After we got the process completed, we load the babies back in the trailer for the short ride back to their mothers.
It's time for a snack for the babies and dinner for the humans.


  1. Very nice post.
    We will be starting this process with our first calf heifers on Monday!
    Depending on whose pushing calves in the chute, they wear baseball catcher shin guards!
    Those vaccine's are so very important!

    1. The shin guards are a good idea! I might have to pass that along to the powers that be! Good luck with your cattle work, Cheri! Hope it goes well.

  2. Very nice post with wonderful photos (y)

    1. Thanks! I appreciate your stopping by!