Monday, July 26, 2010

Bovine Lullaby

You can always tell the time of year when the mama cows are bawling for their babies.  This used to mean a week of sleepless nights, as our corrals are very close to our house.  And of course our bedroom window is on that end of the house.  A few years ago we read an article in the Canadian Cattleman's magazine about the amount of stress that is put on both the cow and the calf with the traditional weaning practices.  We had combated a bit of this by bringing the calves home.  Without them being able to hear their moms. the weaning process went a bit smoother.  Then we discovered, the weaning nose clip.  Ours are plastic and easily slip into the nostrils of the calf.  The top side has small sharp points on it. When the calf goes to nurse it gently pokes the cow and she won't let it nurse.  But it still allows the calf to be able to drink water and graze. Within a couple of days the calf has been discouraged from nursing, but is content to still be with it's mom.  They are very cost effective, selling for under $2 and they are reusable.  Studies have shown that a calf will walk up to 40 km in the first two days that it is weaned, using the traditional method of separation from the cow.  A considerable amount of weight can be lost through this stress.

We usually use these in the calves that we are going to be keeping for replacement females and the bulls that will go into our bull pen.  We are then able to wean the calves in August but don't have to bring them home. We put the nose clips in when we give them their first shots and take them out 2 weeks later when they get their booster shot.  This way we are not creating extra work for ourselves. The calves can then stay on grass with their mothers until the grass runs out or the snow flys. 
This weekend we put some of these into the cattle that we are going to show and sell this fall. They look a little funny but the reduction in stress for them and us is worth it. There were a few moos during the night, mostly from the cows being a bit uncomfortable with full udders, but nothing like we would have experienced with the traditional weaning practices.  A sign that everyone was content.

1 comment:

Trio Angus said...

I have seen some people use these nose clips in Australia aswell and they look like a great idea. So you leave them in for two weeks? And then do you take them out and pull the calves off the cows?