Why do we tag?

And I am not talking about hash tagging, but tagging cattle! Everyone ear tags their cattle a little different or at different times; and that is perfectly fine! Everyone makes a cake a little different also but the end result is normally the same, a wonderful yummy cake. Our result tagging cattle is also the same; a unique number is given to each calf or cow use to identify them!

Imagine a sea of black, black cute little baby calves. You can tell some of them apart because their face may be longer or they are a little smaller or have a bit of white on their belly.

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As you watch them play and run around you notice a larger black calf off by itself. It doesn’t look so good, he has a runny nose and he is not eating. You decide he needs a shot of antibiotics. You call the vet and get the prescription and dosage. When you go back to find the calf you have no idea which one he is!

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You want to be sure you give the correct calf the antibiotics! This is where ear tagging comes into play. We ear tag the calves a month or two after they have been born. When we ear tag them we also castrate the males, which means we remove their testicles in a safe manner. Castrating helps decrease the amount of testosterone in the males, which makes them less aggressive and creates a better quality meat . The decreased amount of testosterone leads to better marbling in the meat, higher quality grade, and a meat that is more tender.

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Once the calves have been ear tagged, we turn them back out with their moms.They will stay with the cows and drink their milk, eat hay, and a little bit of grain until they reach approximately seven months old. Then we will wean them or take them off of their mother’s milk.

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Once the calves have been ear tagged the ear tag is mostly permanent, unless the animal happens to tear it off or it becomes faded. If we have to re-tag the animal, we can simply cut the tag off and re-tag them.

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Ear tags help producers keep accurate records of their animals. It is important for producers to be able to identify their animals to provide a safe food supply to consumers! Have questions? Leave me a comment!

-Bethany

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Moving Day!


Sunday dawned bright and early and it was moving day! Moving day for who you might ask? Not me, but the steers that Wes’s family raised. We didn’t have to pack their bags to move but we did have to prepare them to move…. to the sale barn. It was time for the steers to make it to their next home.


Just like moving day for you or me, there was a lot of work that had to be completed before the steers were loaded up and brought to the sale barn. First, they had to be born! Wes’s family has around 70 cows, mature females that have had a calf before. These cows are bred by three bulls or mature males that are able to reproduce. Why do they have to have so many bulls? Because, on average, 25¬† is the magic number of how many cows a bull can monitor and breed successfully. A cow comes into heat, or her body is ready to release an egg, around once a month or every three weeks. A bull can detect the hormones released when she comes into heat and he knows she is ready to be bred. That is a full time job! If a farmer wants to make sure all his cows are bred then he has to have enough bulls to go around. If a cow doesn’t have a calf then she didn’t do her job and according to Dad, “If she doesn’t do her job on the farm, then she is eating for free and we can’t make money!”


Once the calf is born, the cow allows the calf to suck or drink milk from her teat. She has four teats on her udder. The calf stays with the cow from 6-10 months of age or 450 to 700 pounds. Normally the farmer decides when to wean the calf. A calf is weaned, or taken off the milk produced by the cow, and put on grain, hay, or grass.The corn these steers eat is raised on Wes’s farm and fed to the steers. Wes also hauls this corn to MFA to be sold to other producers. Some times he has to haul late at night.


Calves are born as either males or females. A female is called a heifer until she has her first calf then she is called a cow. A male is either a bull or can be made into a steer. A bull calf can be castrated, or have its reproductive organs removed, to be made into a steer. A steer has several benefits once it has been castrated: Decreased aggression, higher price when sold, tender meat, a higher grade meat, and additional marbling in the meat.

The steers getting ready for moving day have all been castrated, received up to date vaccinations and shots, and been weaned for several weeks. The 40 steers were sorted into pens and now were ready to be loaded. Wes hooked up the truck to the trailer and backed up to the shoot!


The steers were then loaded onto the trailer and hauled to Callaway Livestock Center. The steers will be bought by other farmer, producers, or feed lot owners. They will be fed more grain and hay until they reach a weight of around 1200 pounds. Once they reach this weight they will be processed and eventually end up as part of your steak that you order at Colten’s or hamburger you eat at the high school basketball game.

-Bethany

A Working Controversy 

Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year. Of course, I love all the typical fall things, bonfires, sweaters and the leaves changing colors. But what makes it even better is the fact that deer season is coming, Thanksgiving is almost here and we get to do one of my favorite farm activities: working cows.

The cows headed for the lot lead by Dad and a bag of range cubes.

Most people call me crazy or at least give me weird looks when I say that I love working cows. But I just love the fact that we get to bring all the cows up, check for health issues and give them their shots, and then let them all go again. My inner cowgirl also likes to play ranch hand for a day!

All the cows are caught, lets take selfie!

Of course, whenever I say giving cows shots, I enter straight into the latest controversy, this time involving Subway.

Each year, we feed out the steers from our herd and sell that beef directly to consumers. We get a lot of questions, but none of these questions have ever stemmed from antibiotics. Mainly the questions we  are what do you feed them, do they get grass, and how do you cook brisket?

One of our butchering steers.

But when giving antibiotics, we, like most cattlemen, give the recommended dosage to keep cow and calf.

Making notes on what vaccines to give to each cow, calf and heifer.

We use syringes that can be set to give a specific amount. But when working cows, we give vaccines, not actual antibiotics. Vaccines help prevent sickness from happening, while antibiotics help stop it once it has already happened.

Bethany ready to go!

Generally, it’s Bethany’s job to know what shots are giving to each cow and how much. She will then hand that shot to our neighbor, Rex, who will either give it subcutaneous (under the skin) or intramuscular (in the muscle).

The only picture of me in the lot, of course with no cows.

Dad and I work the cows through the lot to the shoot. Most of our cows have been on our farm long enough that they know if they get through the shoot, there’s usually grain on the other side. But then you have the speedy little calves.

A cow patiently waits for her turn so she can get back to her range cubes.

Working cows in the fall also involves cutting the calves, so once one bull calf goes through the others need a little more convincing.

I get to hold the tail while our neighbor cuts the bull calves.

When it all said and done, each cows is ready to beat any problems that may come this winter, and we are dog tired!

Did I answer all your questions? If not, ask them! I would love to clarify!

~Nicole

Lady Lily

No, Lady Lily is not a queen from a  Renaissance Festival. But she is majestic, draped in black velvet, and has the voice of an angel. Still confused? Lily, of course, is my bottle calf! 

  

So you don’t think that description fits? After yelling her name into the early morning darkness, believe me, when you finally hear and then see her running through the pasture, it fits perfectly. 

  
Even though we have had cattle my entire life, Lily is the first -healthy- bottle calf we have ever had. Unfortunately, I have to emphasize the healthy because we have many many bottle calves, just none that have made it. 

Unlike most bottle calves, we still have Lily’s mother and we will probably be keeping her because she raises great babies, especially Lily’s twin brother. 

  
We found Lily one Saturday laying in the woods. We left her alone, figuring that her mother would come back for her, like cows normally do. Sunday morning, Lily was laying in one of our lots, near two late heifers we were weaning. We closed the gate so she wouldn’t wander off and went the check the cows. We counted, and counted and counted again. Not only were all the cows there, but so were all the calves that we knew of (it’s calving season, sometimes there are surprises!) Back to the house we went to mix the bottle. 

  
Eventually, we came to the conclusion that the only possibility was a twin. Because her mother is a Simmental, she also has their signature ‘eye patches’. Take a look at Lily, who has similar markings. 

The downside of twins is the huge possibility that Lily is also a ‘free martin’. Cows are genetically made to have a single offspring, but do on occasion have twins. When this happens, if the gender is the same the twins are generally healthy and live a normal life. If the genders are opposite, the female is generally a free martin, or sterile. While she is otherwise healthy, Lily has a very low chance of remaining on our farm for an extended amount of time due to the fact that she might not reproduce. But until she is officially declared sterile by our veterinarian, she will continue to enjoy life with me! (And my dog Harley)

~Nicole