Monday, November 21, 2016

Life In the "Hood (Calfhood That Is)!

Some of our calves are in the 'hood - the "calfhood," that is.

We build our cow-calf crop by keeping 25 of the heifers born each winter. To work toward that addition to our herd, Randy chooses some of the females as potential future mamas for the County Line.

Dr. David Harder from Prairie Vista Veterinary Clinic recently came to the County Line to "work" the calves which had been born last February and March. As the calves came through the chute, Randy identified the heifers he wanted to retain for our herd, choosing the ones in good body condition and good confirmation.
Dr. Harder 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.
The orange "bands" help identify the calves who've been calfhood vaccinated. Most of these heifers will become part of our cow-calf herd and will have their first calves in 2018 as 2 year olds.

The male calves aren't ignored during this doctor visit. Just like we humans can benefit from routine physicals and preventative care, our bovine charges also need regular doctor visits.
The calves go down a lane and into a squeeze chute. We use the chute to safely restrain the animal and also to keep the people involved safe. Dr. Harder lowered a panel in the chute to check and see whether the "patient" was a boy or girl.
File photo from 2014
He had syringes in both hands, giving the calves shots to prevent blackleg and PBD (persistent bovine diarrhea).
He also gave a shot to control parasites inside and outside the animal. That syringe hung from the chute on a gerry-rigged baling wire hanger. What would we do without baling wire on a farm?
They kept the medications cool by storing them in a specially-fabricated cooler.
A few of the calves had lost their yellow identification ear tags, so Randy put in new ones.

Dr. Harder also gave a growth implant to steers and to heifers we don't plan to keep for breeding. 
The implant is Ralgrow, a hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland and helps the calf grow faster.
The $1 injection will bring a $3 return. We believe 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.

Like keeping a patient record for humans, the assistant Liz recorded the "office" visit, making note of the calves we calfhood vaccinated. 
We keep the weaned calves in the corrals for a couple of weeks to get used to being separated from their moms. It also gets them acclimated to eating hay and silage.
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. We will feed the calves through the winter. In March, we'll sell the steers and any heifers we don't retain for our own herd.

In the meantime, we took some of the ladies-in-waiting to graze on sudan that the guys had fenced off. Others have been dining on an alfalfa field.

The bulls also got a break. They evidently didn't want to leave the summer pasture. When we gathered the mamas at the Ninnescah, two of them were hanging out in cattails. Once we got the cows caught, Randy and I went off on another expedition to find them.
They, too, were run through the chute at the farmstead.
These two from the Ninnescah Pasture joined the two bulls from the Rattlesnake Creek last week at the Palmer pasture.
And there was a rumble in the 'hood. Boys will be boys. They had to have a little contest to see who was "boss," even though there were no "ladies" nearby to impress.
Another fall task is "culling" cows that aren't pregnant. When Dr. Harder found an "open" cow, Randy would mark it with a yellow line on its face and big "O"s on either side. This helps us see them more quickly to sort them off.

We hauled a total of 6 open cows to the sale barn in Hutchinson.
Sometimes, we have to say goodbye to some of the ladies in our 'hood. That's life on the farm.

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