Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Social Distancing in the Cattle Lot

It only seems right during these days of the Covid-19 pandemic that some of the "patients" were outfitted with "masks" during three days of annual check-ups on the County Line.
I guess in this case it's OK to lick your nose ... as long as your "hands" stay away from your mouth and eyes.
 We practiced our version of social distancing.
Pandemic or not, springtime means it's time to "work" baby calves. 

That may sound like we're sending them off to collect a paycheck. But it really means that we are doing the work by sorting, hauling and doctoring the baby calves.
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, and we ordered the medication from our vet, Dr. Bruce. But this is a task that Randy does, with help from me and, this year, a neighbor.

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 and then sort the babies from the mamas. As I've said before, I skip trying to photograph the sorting process. I need my hands free while trying to send mamas back to the corral and keep the babies from following along.

At those other location, we haul the babies by trailer to the working chute, leaving the mamas behind. 
The babies seem more curious about me than concerned about the fact they are separated from their personal milk machines. The mamas end up with that "first-day-of-kindergarten" feeling being separated from their babies. See them all lined up along the fence?
But, just like at the end of the kindergarten session for we human Mommies, the babies will be back with their mamas soon enough - right after their "doctor's appointments."
The babies go, one at at time, down a lane and into a calf cradle - a miniature squeeze chute.
I didn't get a photo of calves in the squeeze chute this year. The first order of business is giving each calf a number tag and notch in its left ear.
This year, the numbers all start with "0" to indicate the baby was born during the 202"0" calving season. Then the baby calf and his friends got Tic-Tac-sized growth implants in their ears. The hormone stimulates the pituitary gland and helps the calf grow. The $1 implant 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 meat that we produce here on the farm and share it with our children and grandchildren.
We give each calf two injections. One is an immunization to prevent blackleg. The other 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 also become steers during their time in the chute. Afterwards, we haul them back to their mothers. For the Peace Creek group, we loaded up the calves in the trailer and the mamas follow along behind.
Then they are reunited.

Other pairs are grazing on a small lot of wheat. I think they look so pretty against the green.
 Others are back in pastures.
The pairs will hang out together until later this spring when we haul them all to their summer vacation spots. We only have a few stragglers left to calve.


  1. Life on the farm seems healthy and normal. Abundant grass and happy animals. I missed my Easter down on the farm, so this was a lovely dose of farm life.

    1. I'd say that much of it is the same. It's strange to attend church only online and not to have our normal slate of meetings, etc. How we do business off the farm has definitely changed - visits to the farm store, sale barn, etc. We did a Zoom call with our kids on Easter, but I sure wish we could have been together. I hope you and your family are doing well.