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a herd divided

Farmer Jon here - Well, we finally started the weaning process with the calves. I had to beef up my fencing to (hopefully) keep the calves and cows apart. The actual sorting of the cows and calves went fairly smoothly. I did it by myself, in the pasture. I ended up with one calf that is still with the cows but the rest of the calves have all been sorted off. I left the two bulls, a heifer and a cow that was open last year with the calves to help calm them down. After a few weeks, I'll pull the bulls out so there aren't any shenanigans. The heifer calves won't be a year old for another 45-60 days so I'm not too concerned.

Of course, many think we're crazy for waiting so long to wean. And many think we're crazy for waiting so long to leave the bulls in. And many think we're crazy for waiting so long to castrate the bull calves. But, so far, the cattle are all alive and well. Crazy...

(sorry, I was taking pictures with my cellphone again...)

Rich  – (April 16, 2012 at 8:06 PM)  

I don't know if I would say you are crazy, but there are a number of things to consider.

One fall, I waited until one group of calves was about 9 months old to wean them because I read something about how a "good" cow should be able to nurse the calf until it was older, replacement heifers would be more fertile if they nursed a little longer, etc.

Those calves were nice and big, but I'm not sure if they were any bigger than if I had weaned them earlier and just let them graze for a couple of months. But it was an awful cold, dry winter after they were weaned, which meant the cows had no wheat pasture and needed to be fed alot of hay, and I was sweating bullets trying to put enough weight back on those cows so I could get them re-bred after they calved in the spring.

So, I wean calves at the traditional 7 months now, because I never know if I'm going to have an unusually cold or dry winter or late spring, and I want to make sure I can put some weight on the cows before winter hits. I was thinking awful hard about weaning even earlier (4-5 month) last year due to the extreme drought.

And, a good fertile heifer can start cycling before she's a year old. It's stressful enough when heifers start calving without needing to deal with extra early surprises (I've dealt with one and that's more than enough for me). My advice would be to move those bulls out of the weaning pen as soon as you can, calves don't need babysitters.

Farmer Jon  – (April 16, 2012 at 9:24 PM)  

Thanks for the comments Rich. I'm not sure when I'll wean this next group of calves. I'm interested to see how the cows do and how difficult it will be to put weight back on them.

Weaning at 7 months for me means weaning in December/January and I don't really want to do that. So I either need to wean at a younger or older age or move my calving date up or back. A lot of that depends on the type of cattle I have and since I am the process of changing that type, it's a bit of a moving target. I think it'll be ok regardless but I hope to find the optimal formula for success.

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