Saturday, November 27, 2010


Red, Sid and Jean.

Weaning. I didn't want to do it. How could I take babies away from their moms? I read about weaning and talked to farmers. The books said one thing and the farmers said another.

I hummed and hawed. If I kept them together, feeding and watering would be easier. But then I'd have to separate them just before the moms were about to calve and that could be awkward if the weather's terrible in March. What finally decided me was finding out that the cows teats can split if they're always wet in -20 C temperatures. Since the cows aren't too happy with me rubbing salve on their udders, I decided I better wean.

It turned out to be easy. I lured the cows into the corral with some hay. Just like that. No fuss. So Sid and Red could still hang out with their moms with only fence panels between them. They could even still nurse if they wanted to. No one was upset.

Three days later, I put Sid and Red in a pen about forty feet from their moms' corral. They could see each other but couldn't nurse. After about 12 hours, the calves started mooing, but hay settled them down. No one was frantic. No one was trying to bust through the fences.

After about ten days, when the moms' udders had dried up, I moved the moms to the far pasture where they will stay until they're ready to calve. This move was a little tricky because to get them there, I had to move them through an area where they could break away and get to their calves. With snow on the ground, I couldn't set up any fences that would stop them. So, three of us lured them with hay. The cows were hyper, jumping and leaping around but following the hay. They got to about ten feet from the gate, we were almost there, and then wham, they took off for the calves' pen. I sprinted beside them, hoping to turn them off, waving a big rake and hollering, but they split and went on either side of me and had a little party over by their sons. My helper and I ran after them, got them running again and they ran right back to the hay and scooted through the gate where I wanted them. Phew!

Then Sid and Red had to be moved from their pen to the corral where they'll stay until calving time. This was a little more worrisome, because if they broke loose on us, they'd hit a barbed wire fence and would likely hurt themselves trying to barge through to their moms. So we made a fence out of two trucks, the horse trailer, a car, the tractor, and five people with rakes. It worked! Phew again! Now everyone's settled.

In the next post, I'll show how Red has found a new mommy. (It's Kasper!)


  1. We put the weaned calves far enough away so that the moms can't see them, It's pretty noisey around here for a couple of day's until the calves get horse. To help mitigate any problems from stress we put them on a pre conditioner from Purina, it really seems to help getting their gut in order faster. That and good hay, not too stemmy and plenty of fresh water. After about 30 days they are placed into a pasture that is next their mom's. Aside from a little nose touching between the fence, they are independent from the main herd and seem to have established their own social order.

  2. Your method sounds good. I've noticed the calves smell a little funny and I wondered if it was from their guts getting used to the hay. They kind of smell like smoked oysters. Which seems kind of odd. Somehow. The hay they're on is good quality, and not too stemmy like you say, but we haven't given them any conditioner.