September 19, 2011

Weaning Part II - Preparation

We didn't just starting thinking about weaning yesterday.  We have beening thinking about it since we pregnancy checked our cows last December (5 months before the calves we wean this week were even born).  But the last couple of weeks we have been getting prepared for having calves back at the yard and getting back into the feeding chores everday again.  Some things that we have been working on to make sure we are ready to start taking care of the calves include:
1 - Vaccine and Health supplies - Just like calving time there are medical supplies you hope to never need to use but always glad you have it when you need it.  In my last post I talked about the vaccination protocol we use at weaning time.  We have consulted our veterinarian, the veterinarian the feedlot we sell our calves to uses, internet research, and other tools to put together what we feel is the best combination of vaccines and wormers to achieve our goals.  Goal number 1 is alway Prevent as much illness and disease as possible.  Goal number 2 is use the right antibiotic properly (according to BQA guidelines, FDA regulations, and recommendations of our Vet) to get the best and fastest recovery if a calf gets sick. 
2 - Fixing Fence - We have an on going project to replace our exhisting facilities with new, better, stronger, safer fences and handling facilities.  This is a project that will probably never be over after 1 stretch of fence is rebuilt there will always be another spot that needs help.  We have started with some of the worse fence that is located in the areas that tend to get used the most.  Fence is expensive so we only put up as much as we can afford at a time. 

Newly hung gate and section of continous fence!!
 3 - Feed - We have been working all summer to bale enough hay to feed the cattle all winter.  We have taken extra care to make sure that we have some really good grass hay to wean the calves on.  We are transitioning them from grazing pastures and nursing their mothers to eating hay and distillers.  The grass hay is similar to what the calves have been eating on pasture it is just cut and in a easy to access package.  We also feed distillers grain (a product from producing ethanol from corn) which is a great source of protein, energy, and minerals.  We get our distiller delivered from the ethanol plant that I work for prior to getting calves moved to the yard.  We also use a mineral tub that contains high levels of vitamin/minerals that boost immune function and help the calf stay healthy during the stressful part of weaning.
Mineral Tub used at weaning
4 - Feed Rations - We are lucky in the fact that I have my degree in cattle nutrition so instead of hiring a nutrition consultant to make sure our cattle diets are balance to provide everything the animals need as cost effectively as possible we save a little money and I do all of the nutrition work myself.  I balance the diets the calves will be fed prior to weaning.  Once we are done with weaning they may be changed a little bit based on what the calves weighed at weaning.  Feed sheets and ration mixes are already on the clip board in the tractor for Mark.  He keeps track of what we feed and how much we feed to each group of cattle everyday.

We weaned the first bunch on Saturday.  Next post will have pictures and Part III of weaning! 

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