Gathering our lower country, we’ve begun weaning our calves where they’ll ‘soak’ in two different corrals for a week before the steers go to the auction yard in Visalia. The heifer calves will go to the irrigated pasture, open to plenty of dry feed, until the replacements are sorted in July.
This year, after separating the calves from their mothers, we processed all with Inforce 3, a respiratory booster to the vaccination received at branding that is administered nasally. It acts immediately and should relieve any respiratory problems during the stress of weaning. Also, the calves received a topical dose of Cylence for the control of flies. Due to the tall dry feed, we had a number of eye problems, primarily foxtails that we doctored as we processed them.
All of these calves were sired by Vintage Angus bulls and weighed an average of 700 lbs., the heaviest to date from our lower country. We are pleased, of course, with their weights, but happier yet to get started with our weaning. Lots of music in the canyon, cows and calves bawling for one another.
We began weaning our first bunch of calves last week, three weeks earlier than normal, due to the lack of rain in March and April. From second-calf heifers sired by Vintage Angus bills, all of these calves are headed to Visalia Livestock Market on Tuesday. The whole bunch averages 600 lbs.
Though lighter than normal, there are some heifers we would have liked to keep for replacements, but our continuing drought conditions and uncertain feed and water resources make that option impractical. Whether Climate Change or other weather phenomenon, we have come to consider our circumstances to be the new normal for Sierra Nevada foothill ranches in California where cow numbers have been reduced by 40%.
After three years of drought, our springs which are dependent on the Sierra snowpack, and our stockwater ponds which are dependent on rain, are severely impacted, some dry already before summer’s begun. Each operation continues to adapt to diminishing resources as we try to hold our cow herds intact, having already culled deeply in 2013 and 2014.
As we head into our fourth year of drought, we’ve had to change our perspective, hoping to offset our smaller numbers with a good cattle market.
Two fresh calves came yesterday afternoon sired by our young Vintage Angus bulls from second-calf heifers 2075 & 2030.
Off and running, our new year has begun!