Saturday, August 27, 2016

Farmer's Q & A: How Do We Wean Our Calves?

It happens between all mothers and their offspring at some point.  Separation.  It's a time of change, especially here on the farm.  The trick is to this passage is to make it as trauma-free as possible on both the momma cows and their calves.  The mommas are already pregnant (or so we hope), and it's time for the babies to get on real food and grain.  My hubby, Tall Guy, puts a lot of thought in to the question, "How do we wean our calves?"


Weaning Calves



We started our little herd last April.  Bubba, the neighbor's bull, went a courtin', and we waited, ok, and sometimes watched just to make sure ALL the girls were getting the same attention.

Weaning Calves

Bubba is on your left in this picture.

Weaning Calves

A few months later, the vet and her team came out to do a pregnancy check, and 7 of the 8 girls' sticks had a + on them!

What?

Can you imagine cows peeing on a stick?

You got me, Peeps.  You can use ultrasounds,  (Sorry about the glare!)

Weaning Calves

but the tried and true way to preg check a heifer cow is to get out the glove that goes up to your shoulder, and put your hand and arm where no hand and arm have gone before.  It doesn't hurt the momma, it can hurt or pinch the vet's arm, but once she/he is in there, the vet can give us a fairly accurate assessment of how far along the momma is in her pregnancy.

Weaning Calves

Next, we waited.  The calves were all due between mid January and the first of March.  At the end of that time we had 6 healthy calves:  3 bulls and 3 heifers.  We had two come breach, and one did not survive.  Our growing herd flourished, and when we finally let them all out to pasture this spring, they all kicked up their heals and enjoyed the fresh grass.  Tall Guy and I love watching our cows out in the pasture.


"What is my name?"  Her name is now Cocoa....

Weaning Calves

and this youngest bull calf is Hershey!

Weaning Calves

So now it is the beginning of fall, and these cute cuddly calves are weighing in at 500 to 650 pounds! We didn't want to wean them during our county fair, and then we scooted west for a vacay after the fair, so TG wanted to wait until now to wean them.

Want to know a secret?

Do you really want to know exactly what determined when TG would wean the calves?

Hold on to your scientific hats..............Here it comes..........


You can pick up this wealth of information at almost any farm store you come across or you can order next year's copy here.  I kid you not; this wonderful old book that Ben Franklin started 200+ years ago is still a valuable part of our lives.  Everything you would want to know about weather, gardening, livestock raising, and too many more tidbits to mention.

Speaking of mention......Did I mention to you that the day the OFA recommended best to wean calves was also the day we hosted a wrap-up end-of-the-year party for our 4-H club?  Oye!  TG brought the calves over to our tool shed where they will stay at least until we figure out who is showing who for 4-H next year.  The mommas just stayed in the pasture.  For those of you who don't know, weaning calves can be a bit, uhm, noisy at the start.  The calves start missing their mommas about lunch time, and about evening the mommas are missing their calves because their udders are full.  I'm not gonna lie, it does tug at the heart strings, but in just a few days all is well and quiet with the world, and both mommas and calves start a new phase of their lives.  The calves start eating more corn and grass hay so they can have a healthy start to the next stage of their growing, and the mommas have a bit of a break until January/February 2017 when the next group with be due.




Do you remember how hard it was to wean your children?


Is there anything else you would like to know about this process of weaning calves?





I love hearing from you and understanding your take-away from Farmer's Q & A post!


Until next time, Peeps, have a great day, 
and make a positive difference in 
someone else's life!


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Farmer Q & A: How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair (or How to Make Heifer Calves Queen for the Day!)

Let's face it, on the farm our cows are prettiest after a good strong rain.  In between times they can accumulate a lot of dirty and, well, organic material. There is one group, however, who gets a bit of the pampered treatment.  Mind you they work for it, but our 4-H calves are quite familiar with soap and water.  Let me explain How We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair.



I'm pretty sure we are among the last counties in Indiana to have our county fair, but the good news is it looks like we are going to have the coolest weather in the last couple weeks, so off we go tomorrow.  As I type, Tall Guy, Miss K, and two brothers of a cousin down the road are blowing out the last two calves for the night.  The heifers and one steer are just finishing up their final touch up with Revlon #10.  Yeah, even black cows sometimes aren't all black.  Kind of like some of us out there aren't quite sure what our natural color is any more!  (kind of guilty there myself!)

Not only do these calves have a bright shiny coat, they also have a a new "do."  Peeps, did you know there are special ways to trim the hair on calves to show off their best qualities, and just like in our world (kinda), the guys will get a different trim than the girls.

Every year we have learned more and more about how to show our calves, and grooming is the next big hurdle to jump.  We are so grateful to have friends who have kids who KNOW THEIR WAY AROUND A CALF!   When we were at Hoosier Beef Congress last December, TG and I found ourselves totally out of our league in prepping our calves for show.  For once my "never went to an event where I didn't know someone" paid off, and I called in a marker from an old friend who is blessed with two incredible young leaders.  Janelle & Jaye came over and helped fit our calves at Hoosier Beef Congress, and told us they would love to help again when it came around fair time.  I remembered this offer and took them up on it.

First step in the process is a first appointment to lay the groundwork for the true show. The kids came over and down on Monday to get this done, and they through in a few pointers on showmanship. They know a thing or two about that from all the success they had at their LaPorte County Fair the week before.  This is true 4-H kids using their hands to help other 4-Hers learn the ropes.

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair


How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

Our show day was that Saturday, so we had four days more to work with our calves until the big day.

First there is the washing.... 4 calves!

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair
 
Then there is the little pep talk while she is eating.......

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

And now it is time to get these girls and boy ready for their "Close Up!"

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

The white paint is sprayed on so that it is easier to see the hairs that need trimmed.

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

Before....

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

During.......

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

And the finishing touches on her tail head.


How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

Then the legs...

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

And the actual end of the tail.... 

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

 Ta Da!
Don't I look just MOOvalous???

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

The girls had their best year yet in the ring as far as showing and controlling their calves. We came back with a blue and red, but Tall Guy and I gave them both PURPLE ribbons in our book for the improvements they made with their showing abilities.  

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

How Do We Prep Our Calves for the County Fair

Thanks again to Janelle and Jay and their momma, Andrea for making the hike down to our fair. Now the heifer calves are back out in our pasture, grazing and remembering the one day they were treated like queens.