Last week, it was time for us to work our beef cattle. We only do this twice a year, so this is our best chance to get a good look at every single cow and be sure she is looking good and healthy.
We do this once in the fall – they get some vaccinations then, and we check to see if they are pregnant. And we do this again in the spring, they get different vaccinations, fly tags to keep the bugs away, replace any missing identification tags, and do artificial insemination on our purebred Angus cows.
First, we round up all the cows and herd them into the small pen in the barn.
Then, one at a time, they go into the cattle chute with the head catch. Yep, even the calves got a turn!
Now kiddo number 5 (the fifth calf born on this farm this spring) has an identification tag in each ear with his number, his birthdate, and his mom’s number. He also has a fly tag in his left ear.
The calves got all their first vaccinations. They got vaccines against respiratory diseases, a virus that causes severe diarrhea, and a group of bacteria called Leptospira that can cause all types of different diseases. (The adult cows get these in the fall.) Everybody also got a vaccine against pinkeye, which is caused by a bacteria spread by flies. Between the vaccine and the fly tags in their ears, these cattle are pretty well protected against pinkeye!
This was the first fly tag for the calves, so they got a new ear piercing. The cows all had fly tags last spring. We used last year’s piercing holes for the new tags. It’s sometimes a little hard to be sure we get back into the same hole, but it’s worth it to not put “extra” holes in their ears!
We also did artificial insemination (AI) on half of the cows. (The other half were inseminated two weeks ago.) We do one round of AI on our registered (pure-bred) Angus cows. Because AI is not perfect, we will turn a bull out in the pasture with them two weeks later. Any cows that didn’t get pregnant through the AI should be bred by the “clean up bull.”
After all that is done, we let the cow out of the chute and into the small barn lot. They all hang out in the barn lot until we’re finished with everyone.
Some of the cows left a little bit faster than this one. And most of the calves ran until they were outside the barn, but they calmed down pretty quickly once they were let go.
Once everyone has had their turn in the chute, they get to go back out to their main pasture. Here they are, about 5 minutes after we opened the gate back up.
Nothing like an early morning snack to take away the sting of an ear piercing and a vaccination!