Day 96 – calf sorting

Once a year, we sort out the 5-8 month old calves to band for steers and pen up to sell to people who want ot have a cow for their own herd or want to feed a steer out for beef.

There is a process: pen all the herd in the barn, sort out the cows that stay, run the calves into a pen, run them out one at a time to be weighed, then ear tagged and banded (if it’s a bull calf). Of course, that’s a simplified version of the process. And there are so many variables – weather, number of people helping, and not least, the calves themselves. Some are calm, some are feisty, some can be downright mean.

This year, we got them penned up and the first few got through the process with minimal fuss, for calves. We have some new tools that make the process safer and more efficient, and those tools were working.

Then the wheels fell off. Long story short, we stopped the process because someone was going to get hurt. The 8 calves for sale are still penned up with all the hay they can eat, and have calmed down a lot since this afternoon.

angusIn the end, we’re all a little bruised and a lot sore.  We’ll take what happened this year, make adjustments for next year, and do it all over again.  Cattle (heck, running a farm in general) keep us on our toes in more ways than one, because there are always things we can’t control, from birth to sale.

It’s pretty quiet out there now.  Some of the momma cows are a little uncomfortable, if they were still nursing one of these calves, and the calves themselves aren’t sure what just happened.  But they have a load of hay, so eating will keep them busy.  And we’ll see what it all looks like in the morning.

And a giant thanks for our family and friends who came over to help – it does take a village!

 

Sometimes, the best way to learn is to do it all wrong

So, we had a bull calf born out of cycle last spring, and for some reason for the past year, I’ve assumed I was going to band him for a steer. Now, we don’t really need a steer that will be ready sometime in the fall, but that’s what I had in my head, so […] Continue reading

So, we had a bull calf born out of cycle last spring, and for some reason for the past year, I’ve assumed I was going to band him for a steer.

Now, we don’t really need a steer that will be ready sometime in the fall, but that’s what I had in my head, so that was what I was going with today when I marshaled him into the head gate to band him.

Or, that’s at least what I thought I was going to do. He had other ideas.

During the course of getting stepped on and almost kicked in the head, my mother-in-law remarked, “Just sell him,” and at first I balked. After all, I was intent on banding that bull for a steer.

But why?

After all, I put off banding him for a year, don’t need him for the meat, and frankly, he’s just too damned big to band now anyway. But, that’s how I did it last year, and that’s how I was going to do it again this year, right?

After thinking about it, I realized that the answer is really “no”. We have calves born around here every six months, and they’re far easier to band when they’re small and when I actually need them, so now the big guy is going to be sold as a yearling bull.

In the mean time, I’ve learned to think about the whole process a whole lot better than I was even just a few hours ago. I’ve heard what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I suspect that’s because we learn not to do that again.

DLH

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