The calving lot this evening:
Today I’ll explain the movements of our cattle during calving season. The pictures I’m adding are in the ranch layout page, but I’ll put them here so they will be easier. We bring the cattle in before calving season starts and separate them into one of two meadows, the cow meadow, and the heifer meadow.
The majority of cows go in the cow meadow. In the heifer meadow we put the first calf heifers, the second calf heiferettes, and any older cow or cow that is lame. The cattle in the heifer meadow get cake every day and a little higher quality of hay. I might note that last year we were having problems with large calves in our heifers. Our vet suggested taking them off cake and the this helped a little. This goes to show there’s a fine line between getting them the added nutrition they need and not over feeding them.
So here is the path a cow takes:
We will bring them in from the cow meadow to to corral to sort off the heavies, the cows know this routine so well, once you cut them out of the herd they take themselves out the gate. The line that is purple is the pre-calving route. The cow stays in the calving lot till she calves.
The post calving line is the blue line. After the cow calves, we will put her out into what is usually our horse pasture (not labeled on the map but it’s just through the gate following the arrow. Cows know this routine very well and sometimes will wait at the gate with their calf. Some will wait at the gate right when they start calving, but the golden ticket to the Willy Wonkas of pastures is a calf. Cows get tired of being in the calving lot. It’s like a kid sitting in school looking out the window at Disney World.
Here’s the path a heifer takes:
The heifers are brought in from the meadow and put in the calving lot (purple line). After they calve they are put in a separate lot (heifer lot, blue line). You might notice my blue line is not straight. That’s because the heifers have no idea where they’re supposed to go, and a lot of times that is the route they take. Sometimes it takes a couple people to put them out there.
The next movement I’ll note is the route we take cattle when they need to go to the cow barn to have assistance in calving.
We bring them in horseback usually, although sometimes we can get them to go with the pickup. On this map you’ll notice my big blue circle, this is the stock tank. When my in laws first bought this part of the ranch, they thought of putting water out in the calving lot so they didn’t have to walk as far for a drink. But because the tank is in the corral, it has been a help in that the cattle are used to walking that direction and move that way easier. We bring them into the corral and turn them into the pens. Then its down the alley ways to the cow barn.
Every ranch has different methods they employ for placement of cattle during calving. Some ranches around here just calve in the hills. Some put heavies in a pasture separated into smaller units where nothing has been for the whole year. Each new group of heavies gets a new pasture. The idea behind this is to limit the ability of calves to transmit illnesses such as scours. We don’t do this because our calving lot is super protected from the tree rows, and not big enough to section off. In our experiences, we’ve never had big problems with illnesses due to our pastures. Everyone has their unique system that works for them based on their specific environment.
Another note I’ll add is about our meadows. We attempt to feed our cattle in various places throughout the meadow so they utilize the entire meadow. Having them all over the meadow during calving season spreads out the manure they drop. Come spring thaw, we will go out and drag chips. Dragging chips is what we call harrowing. I once called a neighbor to talk to her daughter and she said “she’s out doing the harrowing”, I misunderstood and thought she said heroin….which is very out of character for this girl…..
Dragging chips breaks up the cow chips and spreads them evenly over the meadow fertilizing it. The meadows look so pretty after all the cow pies are gone and it is just a sea of grass. Right now our ranch is very tanish-brown. But it really is beautiful in the summer when everything greens up.