Calving time is definitely the most exciting time on the farm each year. Not far behind that is weaning and selling time. That is when we can really see how well the calves are performing and more what they will look like as mature cattle. I get excited about what their future holds. Some calves go on to be female replacements (future momma cows) and some go on to be beef. No matter their purpose, they are all important to us and we want to make sure they get started off on the right “hoof.” Here is a quick photo journey of our 2017 calf crop from birth to weaning:
We calve from September to October (fall calving) each year in usually a 30-45 day window. Calves are born weighing 65-75+ lbs. depending on breed and gender. As soon as a calf is born we give it an ID ear tag and record its birth date, gender, and dam.
We make sure the calf is nursing and mom is doing her job watching her new calf. It is very important that the cow has maternal instinct and takes care of her new calf. We had a first calf heifer this past fall to calve that did not want to accept her calf at all (calf had to be bottle-fed). She was culled from our herd. Strong maternal instinct is crucial to calf health and survival.
Calves are very curious at an early age. We feed our cows periodically so the calves can start to the learn the routine of coming in the catch pen. Once the calves are older we will feed them out of a creep feeder (only the calves can get the feed) in the catch pen so they associate it with feed time which makes for easier catching later on.
Here are the calves in November, they are approximately 2 months old in this photo. You can see how quickly they grow! Calves are with their dams (moms) until we wean around April each year. They learn to eat grass, hay, feed, and minerals during this time by watching their mom and the other cows. Before our bull calves reach 3 months old we castrate them. Research has shown that it is less stressful on the calves to do dehorning and castrating as young as possible. Beef Quality Assurance guidelines state prior to 3 months of age so that is what we strive for.
The calves continue to grow throughout the winter months by drinking milk and eating hay. They are also on free choice minerals year round.
March through May has been very busy this year with vaccinations and weaning. Normally, we like to start vaccinations earlier around 4-5 months of age but it just did not happen. One main reason is we moved the entire herd to a new pasture where we do not have handling facilities and it is not easy to move them back and forth because we have to cross a road and through several pastures. We will have a better game plan for the next set of calves so we can vaccinate earlier like normal. Calves received their first set of shots and dewormer at the end of March. They were weaned middle of April and given a booster (2nd round of vaccinations) and dewormer early May. Calves were sold after being weaned for at least 30 days. As of May 21, 2018 all of our calves have been sold (except our freezer steer calf)!
At 7-8 months of age, our crossbred calves (heifers and steers) averaged 588 lbs. (with the exception of one heifer calf that was out of a first calf heifer) and our Hereford heifer calves averaged 450 lbs. They did received commodity beef cattle feed for the 30 days they were being weaned to help keep their weight moving forward since they were no longer on milk. We then sold our steer calves first followed by the heifer calves!
The heifer calves were sold as replacements off of our farm private treaty. We usually have heifers to sell each year (depending on the calf crop) so please let us know if you are interested in crossbred heifers (Hereford x Black Angus) or purebred registered Hereford heifers. We only had three steers born in 2017 and two of them were accidental (our neighbor’s bull visited). Those two steers were marketed through our local auction barn as a pair since they were close in genetics, size, and same gender. The other steer is the only calf were are keeping from 2017 and he will be our future freezer beef in 2019. We always keep back one steer each year to grow out until about 2 years of age for freezer beef that our family eats.
That’s all for this blog post! Remember, May is National Beef Month! With Memorial Day and Father’s Day coming, it is a great time to fire up the grill! #beefmonth