You are doing what to me today? I feel like that is the look this cow was giving me today. I feel ya, girl, most women don’t love that yearly exam. Fall cattle work is much like that yearly check-up that we all need to prevent health problems and catch them early if we can to prevent bigger problems.
Each fall we gather all of the cattle to give them the once over that is very similar to a yearly checkup. Females will get “preg checked” this means that the veterinarian will palpate the cow or heifer to check to see if she is pregnant. In some cases, the vet will use an ultrasound machine to identify the gender and to get a better guess of when the calf will be due. We know when most of the cattle are due based on artificial insemination dates and when cows were in heat if they were bull bred.
Knowing the gender of the calf when a heifer is bred helps the producer to know which heifer they might want to pay closer attention to as they get closer to their due date. For example, a heifer that is pregnant with a bull calf or twins will need a little closer watch as her due date approach versus a cow that has had five calves with ease.
All of the calves and cattle will get vaccinated. We give a 4-way injection to prevent disease. This will prevent our cattle from getting respiratory diseases that could kill them or cause them to become very ill and go “off of feed” which means they will stop eating which will impact their rate of gain.
All cattle will get “poured”. This means we will spray a liquid on their backs. This liquid will prevent parasites and other bugs like lice. We want to prevent parasites from living on our animals because parasites can create havoc with their digestion, impact how they absorb nutrients and can impact their immune system making them more susceptible to disease.
Bull calves will get cut or banded during this process. We chose to band all of our bull calves this year, which means that a thick rubber band was placed around the top of the testicle sack. In about 3 weeks the sack will fall off and dry up and the bull calf is then considered a steer. We have done it both ways but felt that banding would be the easiest route to go this time. If you decide to "cut" the bull calves then you can enjoy rocky mountain oysters!
That's a wrap
When cattle work is all finished then there are some times some tough decisions to make. Animals that aren't bred and aren't going to produce calf in the next year probably need to be culled from the herd, as they will end up costing the producer quite a bit of money in feed and vet work. They could be kept until the next breeding season and that is a decision that the producer has to make based on their balance sheet.
Are there other things you do when working cattle on your farm or ranch? Any fun traditions that your family has during cattle work? Have you ever tried rocky mountain oysters?
From the gravel road-