We have finally finished weaning our fall calves and I’m sure that our neighbors are happy to have that noisy time of the year finished!
It’s important that cattle producers wean their calves from the cows for multiple reasons. One of the main reasons that we take the calf off the cow is because it can literally suck all of the nutrients from the cow. The calves are self sufficient at this point and time but would rather sneak a free, easy and yummy meal from the cow instead of foraging for themselves. You tend to see the calves growing well at this point in time and the cows starting to go backwards in their body condition. The next main reason we do this is so that we can make sure that the calves are getting enough feed to adequately help them develop to their max potential. When the calves are in competition for bunk space with the cows they tend to not get their fair share and they also have different requirements than that of the cows. While to some it might seem cruel and I would be lying if I said their sad calls for one another didn’t tug on my heart strings a little bit, it is definitely something that is for the benefit for both the cow and the calf. (I think why society has such a hard time with this idea is because, it’s becoming less and less common for human parents to wean their own children, we are seeing a record number of adult children that still live at home…but that’s a whole other rambling…)
There are three main ways to wean. The first being cold turkey (this is what we do). The second, which is fence line weaning, where you separate the cow and the calf buy a fence line where they can still see one another and smell one another but can’t get to one another unless they crawl through the fence, which sometimes happens! The third is using a blabs, or a anti-sucking device, I do not like these at all. I think that they cause too much damage and introduce too much bacteria and gunk to the nasal cavity and just don’t work like truly weaning but that’s just my personal opinion.
The way that we wean is that we sort the calves off the cows. We then push the cows back to the pasture that they were originally in and then haul the calves to our house. At our house we have a pen that is set up with free choice hay and we hand feed them grain out of buckets twice a day. We do this to get them use to us on the ground and they generally get use to us enough a few will even let you pet on them. After they have stopped bawling for the most part, we will give them any vaccinations that they need and will brand them, and we let them into a smaller pasture where they can explore and enjoy some green grass. We no longer hand feed them and instead just feed them out of the feed pickup. We will ride though them multiple times a week to get an even better eye on their health then we can get each morning when we feed them.
While each operation has a little different way of doing weaning time this seems to be the best way for us. It keeps the stress on the cattle down and we feel like when they don’t have an answer to their calls they don’t call as long. Whatever, way that a producer decides to wean, know that they are working hard to make it as stress-free as possible for both the calves and the cows and they are doing it for the good of both the cow and the calf.