Mailbox Irises

Mailbox Irises

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Stubborn Streak: Cattle vs. Wind vs. Farmer

Baby calves and mamas with minds of their own weren't the only impediments to working baby calves this spring.

The Kansas wind also kept up its stubborn streak for most of our three days of working calves.

At least the baby calves are cute. The wind is just annoying.
I loved this one's heart-shaped face!
Our first day of working baby calves was the most pleasant from a wind standpoint. It provided enough breeze to keep working conditions comfortable and wasn't so strong that we needed dust blinders.

And it's a good thing: That was the day we drove cattle from the Peace Creek pasture half a mile to the pens and working chute. By "driving," I don't mean that we chauffeured them with a limousine. Instead, we used 4-wheelers to "encourage" them from Point A to Point B.
For awhile, my job seemed to be keeping them from traveling too far to the west. The guys were back in the pasture, trying to get a baby calf to come out of the fence. By the time they decided it wasn't going to happen, they couldn't see me anymore and Randy thought maybe I'd accomplished it myself.

I wish.

Instead, I was trying to get them to turn back toward the farmstead. It was a lot easier once reinforcements arrived. (I took a grand total of this one photo during that time. I was too busy running the 4-wheeler accelerator to pull the camera out of my pocket.)

I had a little more time for camera "clicking" while the babies were in the chute. If a young bull calf was undergoing the operation to become a steer, I took a brief time out for a few glamour shots.  
The calves got glamour shots ... and regular shots. When Jill and Brent were little, I took them at the appointed times to get their vaccines at the pediatrician's office. 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 a neighbor.
The babies go, one at at time, down a lane and into a calf cradle - a miniature squeeze chute. (That part takes some pushing, thanks to our neighbor, who's much younger and much more spry!)
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 "1" to indicate the baby was born during the 202"1" calving season. 
I didn't get many photos, since I was busy as the "doctor's" assistant, handing him the ear tagger, syringes, etc., in succession.

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. 

 I might have had a little eyelash envy with this one.

We could tell when a few of them were born, just by looking at their ears. This one began life during one of the coldest parts of our winter, so his ears got frostbitten. It was a little tougher to get the ear tag in those ears, and we had to go through a few extra tag buttons to get the job accomplished.

Once we were done with the baby's "doctor" appointments for our Peace Creek inhabitants, we loaded the babies into a cattle trailer for their short ride back to the pasture.
The mamas did a good job of following the trailer, with only a few minor diversions caused by lush green wheat.
However, Randy let the baby calves out of the trailer a little prematurely and many zoomed out of the gate again.
However, it didn't take long for mamas and babies to be guided back to the right location - with only a slight detour. 

The system changes from pasture to pasture. At some of the locations, we separate the mamas and the babies from each other. We then haul the babies to the working chutes with a cattle trailer.
The mamas protest this forced separation. 
But, it's not long before they're back together again. 
The mamas and babies will be in their appointed lots until we take them to summer pasture in early May. 
Check: Another item off the to-do list!


  1. I love all these pics. I am amazed you got so many considering how full on each day was. The wind and dust would have been awful.
    The last shot of Mum and calf is a winner.

    1. Thanks. These were shot over three days, which helped. I looked to see what I was missing. I didn't get everything, but a fairly good representation.