Tag Archives: Calves

Early Morning Light

 

It was an easy gather this morning. Bob’s presence on this part of the ranch while irrigating and feeding with his Kubota has made these gentle heifer calves even more trusting and curious. I arrived by Kubota headlights with a couple of bales of hay ahead of the cowboys, Robbin, Terri, Allie and Bob, and had the bunch mostly gathered when the horses arrived to escort them to the corrals.

 

© Terri Blanke

 

© Terri Blanke

 

© Terri Blanke

Currently, female cattle can not leave California unless they have been vaccinated for Brucellosis, also known as Bang’s Disease. As a matter of course, we vaccinate our heifer calves to enhance the health of our cattle and the herds of our community and State. Hence, vaccinated cattle are more salable and presumably more valuable.

The presence of brucellosis in free-ranging bison and elk in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA), Yellowstone National Parkland, Grand Teton National Park and the area around those parks, threatens the brucellosis status of the surrounding States and the health of their cattle and domestic bison herds, which are free of the disease. (Brucellosis link above)

The calves must be vaccinated by an accredited veterinarian who also places a tattoo inside the calf’s right ear and an individual metal ID tag in the same ear. Because we want to limit the stress of cattle-handling on the calves, we use this procedure to revaccinate,  a booster to help protect against respiratory and clostridial problems. And while in the squeeze chute they also get a dewormer and a shot of minerals.

 

© Terri Blanke

 

© Terri Blanke

Robbin and I are placing a patch over an eye to keep the sunlight out to reduce the pain and to help it heal with a little Neosporin.

 

© Terri Blanke

And in this instance, the calf got a shot of antibiotics to speed the eye’s recovery.

 

© Terri Blanke

Dr. Ken Fiser applying the individual metal ID tag.

 

© Terri Blanke

 

© Terri Blanke

Lots of hands and lots of syringes and applicators with less than a minute in the Silencer hydraulic chute.

 

All went smoothly, the processed heifer calves on hay and no worse for wear. What a crew–what a day!

 

Rest of the Story

 

© Terri Blanke

We processed a nice bunch of steer and heifer calves this morning that averaged 700 lbs. yesterday after hauling them from the Paregien Ranch. The steers will probably weigh in the 750 lbs. range, the heifers lighter. Today’s market wants calves in the 650 lbs. range to turn out on Mid-West grass, and pays less/pound for the heavier cattle, essentially giving away the extra pounds of beef we’ve worked to produce over the years. But nothing stays the same.

Despite market conditions, the good news is that there are many very nice replacement heifers in this bunch. Robbin and I maintain that we’re raising cows and that the steer calves help pay the bills.

 

Five Star Day

 

@ Allie Fry

 

We saddled in the dark and drove up to the Paregien Ranch this morning to haul the calves down the hill to be weaned, a 3 mile, 30 minute, 4-wheel drive one-way pull off the asphalt from 700 feet to the 2,600 foot elevation. Terri, Allie and Robbin got the cows and calves to the old corrals at sunup to sort the cows from their calves. Nice, smooth sort. We had to lighten our gooseneck loads to about 7,000 lbs., instead of 10,000 lbs., because of this year’s slippery dry grass on the roads. But safer to make the extra trips than to lose a pickup and gooseneck, not to mention calves, or to get someone hurt.

It feels fantastic to finally have the last of the calves in the weaning pen. We’ve been gathering and weaning on other parts of the ranch since the second week in May. Tomorrow these calves get processed and bad eyes doctored. Next Tuesday the steers head to town. Whoopie-ti-yi-yay!

 

BON VOYAGE

 

© Terri Blanke

 

We hate it, but we do it well
before the steel gets too hot
to touch, man or beast—

down the lead-up from the tub
to the hydraulic squeeze,
Enforce 3 and Cylence

for the respiratory bugs and flies,
foxtail relief from flaming eyes,
or whatever else might help

before their gooseneck ride to town,
looking blankly out at cars
and houses, we wish them well.

 

Weaning Greasy

 

© Terri Blanke

 

It’s been a long week with early mornings and warm days gathering another bunch of cows and calves in Greasy. We hauled the last of the calves down the hill this morning to the corrals to wean. From the goosenecks, we unload them onto our scales to weigh, then apply fly spray to not only make the process a little more pleasant for the calves, but to reduce the risk of a pink eye.

The calves have done well but the market is weak and weakening with concerns about this year’s corn crop.

 

Weaning

 

 

It was a 104° at 10:00 a.m. after gathering some of our upper country to collect this year’s calves to be weaned, too hot to pursue the remnants we missed. We’ll be leaving in the dark to give it a go tomorrow and hopefully haul some calves off the hill. Forecast 98°.

 

THAT TIME OF YEAR

 

 

Believe it or not, there are thirteen, or parts of thirteen, people in this photograph taken at Jody Fuller’s branding on December 15th—two calves are down. One of the things that has changed dramatically since I was a boy about the size of the two, (can you find them?) in the photo, is the processing at branding when the only vaccination we gave back then was a two-way clostridial. Everyone in this photo has a job.

The youngest boy with the purple glove has the pine tar to apply to the area of castration, the other has a syringe of Enforce 3 to apply in each nostril. Their mother, outside the pen, is keeping track of tag numbers (yes, there’s a tagger) and the sexes of the calves. Additionally, modified live vaccines to ward of respiratory illnesses and a broad spectrum of clostridial illnesses are given to each calf, plus a separate dewormer. Jody also gives her calves an injection of vitamins.

Because of the concern for antibiotics in beef, vaccines have been developed to limit the necessity for antibiotics in feedlots, essentially placing that responsibility, and cost, on the producer. The media is currently focused on the residue of antibiotics in most all the major hamburger outlets—old cows and bulls. A very small percentage of BEEF cows and bulls ever get an injection of antibiotics.

As neighbors, most of us are used to working together as we brand one another’s calves, but I think it’s remarkable that the job goes so smoothly, especially with two, unpredictable live calves on the ground.

 

Calves at the Gate

 

 

We began baiting our cows and calves on the Paregien Ranch into the gathering field, yesterday, with the Kubota and a little alfalfa hay. We plan on branding tomorrow, trying to take advantage of our drying roads after 2.5” of rain last week. Fortunately, the Valley fog was not a factor until midday when it rose to cloak landscapes up to 2,500 feet. We’re going back this morning with horses to collect a little bunch we missed and sort the dry cows and late-calvers from the bunch. It’s still too early this morning to tell where the fog is.

With ample dry feed, we haven’t had to supplement these cattle this season except for a little ‘hello hay’ when we’ve checked them. Though the cows know our gathering routine and are camped on the hay we’ve strung-out through the gathering field in the photo, it’s a brand new experience for the calves. I found their confusion looking longingly beyond the gate, to the ground they knew, humorous enough to pull out the camera.

 

First Rain

 

 

Our small part of the world is almost perfect with last week’s rain as cotyledons break the duff and dirt, a magic time that California natives, men and beasts, eagerly anticipate. Albeit a bit early, our beginning of grass will need another rain soon, but with plenty of old feed to protect the new, that window is open longer.

 

 

My niece and family have been visiting once a month to help us deal with the Kaweah River watershed’s implementation of the Groundwater Stabilization Act, 2014 legislation designed to improve water quality and sustainability in California. As a more interesting outing, Robbin and I took them up to the Paregien ranch yesterday as we checked on our cattle.

 

 

Her husband Neal is a videographer who is always looking for room to fly his drone. Though I’ve often thought of applications for a drone on the ranch, such as checking fences and looking for missing cattle, I wasn’t quite ready for the visual reality.

 

 

Robbin’s ready to record barking dogs and other assorted cowboy sounds to help us in the gather.

 

Babysitters

 

 

Robbin and I were pleased to see the fresh calves at the Paregien Ranch, our mature cows already setting up nurseries. Though I have my theories, but exactly how the cows decide which new mother will be the babysitter is still a mystery. And who will replace her while she’s grazing?

The cows have broken up into bunches, the most expectant mothers hanging together. Especially vulnerable to coyotes during labor and immediately after the calf is born, struggling to stand and nurse for the first time, each cow depends on the security of the bunch.

It’s refreshing, reassuring, and almost inspiring to see such cooperation within a species without a fuss—an example of selflessness it might do well for humans to emulate. Until then, what better way to spend a Sunday.