Bill uses a couple of weaning options to reduce the stress to both cows and calves, resulting in healthier animals when the process is complete: weaning according to the “Moonsigns” schedule and fenceline weaning.
Bill determines the dates of weaning using the “Moonsigns” schedules available from The Farmer’s Almanac and some garden centers. The latter source also provides a moon sign garden planting schedule. Some cattlemen believe the weaning process is easier and less stressful during certain phases of the moon. The recommended time this year was between April 8 and 14.
In fenceline weaning, the cow/calf pairs are separated into adjacent pastures or large pens with substantial fences or panels between them. The cows and calves can still see each other and touch noses, but the calves can’t access the teats. The calves experience less stress—less bawling and fence-walking—which pays off in healthier calves with better weight gain. Hay and grain are given to them daily.
Last Friday was “Weaning Day.” Bill and the ranch owner separated the cow/calf pairs, and put the calves one at a time through a restraining chute so they could be given vaccinations. Then the calves were released into their new pen next to the cows. The cows’ pen opens into a pasture. For the first couple of days, the cows stayed pretty close to the separating fence panels between the pens. Gradually, they moseyed away to the pasture, spending less time in the pen.
That evening, the ranch owner had a commitment and couldn't do the evening feeding so Bill, Cricket and I drove to the ranch to feed.
While Bill fed hay and grain to the calves, I snapped pictures.
Here are the calves. You can see the cows at the gate in the background.
The white calf is Snowball. His mother is Sweet Pea, our one Charolais-mix cow.
Some of the moms are more interested in me than their calves. Sweet Pea is in the middle of the picture. A concerned, bawling mom is at the fence.
This picture shows Hereford, the red and white cow in the background, one of our favorites.
The calves are eating hay and grain Bill put in the feed bunks.
“Hey, look! A dessert cup!” Suzy Q, daughter of Creedence and granddaughter of Proud Mary, thought she found a treat. It’s actually a supplemental mineral/protein tub. They can lick it, similar to a salt block.