Weaning is done for 2020! I feel like this is the year that we need to celebrate every achievement that we can. I got out of bed today — winning! The windmills are pumping water — oh, heck yeah! The cows are kind of where they are supposed to be — participation trophies for everyone!
Weaning at the Home Place was a little different this year. With succession happening, instead of weaning at the Uncle’s like we have done in the past, we weaned at the corrals here. I cornered the Boss Man a couple months ago and said I have a couple thoughts that I want to show you. That, of course, was followed by the look that a parent gives a child when they know that it is probably going to cost them money and time. Long story short, we added on one large pen to our corrals and reconfigured our working facilities where we tore apart a portable tub to configure with the Daniels alleyway. Fortunately, we had poured concrete for the alleyway many years ago, so with a little designing and replanning the corrals were a major improvement.
The first group of pairs that we brought in were the young cows. The Boss Man, the Right Hand and I sorted and then ran all the calves through in pretty decent time. We gave a shot, a nasal, weighed and retagged.
I’m going to pause here. Yes, you read that correctly, we had to retag almost every calf on both places this year, and all the replacement heifers from last year’s calf crop. The tag/ink company that we have used for years decided to change their tag ink this year. It was an epic fail. The ink lasted about three months and completely disappeared. The only saving grace was that we tattoo at branding time, and this year I told the Boss Man I wanted to go back to tattooing everything including the steers, which in the past were not tattooed. It saved our butt big time, and for once I looked pretty intelligent.
After processing, all the cows were put into our new pen and the calves were fence-line weaned where they could trail out onto a pivot of lush, irrigated pasture. We try to make it as low stress as possible, which always sounds good in theory, but sometimes is harder to execute.
The Right Hand and I weaned and processed a group of contract cattle a couple days later. It took a little longer because there was a handful of calves that we had to pair up with their dams and this group was not tattooed to help us figure out their tag numbers.
The last group we had combined a couple together and we did them on a Saturday when we had a couple extra hands. The crew headed out that morning, two ATVs, a couple dirt bikes, and the pony to round up the pasture.
We had all of the gates set to come in from one direction, and of course the herd decided to head the opposite direction. Instead of fighting them, I made a quick call to the Boss Man to have him set the gates up differently so we could bring them in another way.
Meanwhile, the pairs were headed through the gate and they had to go down this lane fenced on a really steep hill (not “The Man from Snowy River” steep, but pretty steep). They were a little balky and while a couple of us were working on them, the dirt bikes were nowhere to be found. If you’ve been around me lately, I’ve gotten incredibly jumpy if people don’t show up. I sent the Right Hand back and the dirt bikes were getting into a disagreement with a helicopter bovine that was determined she was not going to have her calf weaned, and she proceeded to head the other direction. Three pastures later, they left the pair and came to help wean. We finished by dark that evening, and everything seemed pretty content.
Sunday morning came about, and I woke to bellering in my front yard, and I’m a mile from the corrals. I looked out the window and noticed I had around 40 calves thinking my yard was the best buffet they had seen. I called up to the Boss Man, and he was down at the corrals working on the well. I headed out the door within a couple minutes and heard a buzzing sound from the power pole in the yard.
Long story short, by noon, all of the calves were rounded back up. They had blown through an electric fence gate, PREMA (the Panhandle Rural Electric Membership Association) had worked on the pole, and fortunately no fire had started. The Boss Man had the pump going after it was waterlogged with the electrical issue, and I decided I better locate the pair and start to head home. It took some convincing, but she finally made it to the valley and we were able to sort them. The cow still managed to find a way through a couple more fences over the next couple of days, but her calf had decided that she was way over the helicopter parenting and joined the rest of the herd and never looked back.
Heck, maybe we should celebrate that too!
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Nebraska. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at email@example.com.