We’ve begun weaning calves, a plaintive chorus at the corrals in Greasy and along Dry Creek, as mothers check-in and locate their babies between grazing. The older cows know the routine, some looking forward to the process. The calves average 600 lbs. or more, no longer dependent on mother’s milk. The separation is mostly emotional, a fence between them for the first time in seven months, but the calves quickly adapt to good alfalfa hay, stay full and quit bawling in a couple of days. The cool weather has been ideal, as we work to control dust in the corrals that can create eye problems and even pneumonia. Our process lasts seven days before we turn the calves out on the irrigated pasture, supplemented with more hay that has skyrocketed this year to over $300/ton.
We’ve also been gathering last year’s heifer calves that were exposed to the Wagyu bulls during the winter months, to make room for the cows we just weaned, to make room for this year’s weaned heifer calves to be bred to the Wagyu. We’ll drive the first-calf heifers up the creek and split the bunch between two pastures around the house so that we can keep an eye on them as they calve this fall – our harvest and preparation for the next crop.
A busy time of year as we also cull some of the older cows that may have difficulty supporting a calf at the colder and higher elevations of the ranch, inserting some of the younger cows in their places, keeping our pastures stocked. We have a plan that can get confusing, at times, as we try to adapt to feed and weather conditions, as well as changing market demands and opportunities – trying to stay flexible and ever aware of our slow cash flow before our annual payday.
Long advocates of small family farms and cattle operations, we see the efficiency of seeing all our cows in the corral this time of year, not having to depend on second-hand assessments and descriptions as we prepare for the next calf crop. Then also, there is the special satisfaction we enjoy as we collect our steer calves that will be sold and shipped around mid-July, guessing what they’ll weigh against their weaning weights. Because we can’t wean them all at once due to the configuration of the ranch, we will be busy for next two or three weeks, so posts may be sporadic. Thankfully the temperature has been cool, making it easier on us all.