The rain has come and gone, and now we are left getting the yearlings (calves we have tended to all winter) out to the fresh, lush, green grass for the summer months.
Going To Grass
It is a big deal for the yearlings to head to grass. First of all, our calves from last year (now yearlings) are all grown up – this is their first big outing all on their own. As responsible caregivers, we must prepare these feisty teenagers for what they may face out on their own.
We will separate some of the heifer group to head to a community pasture. Other heifers will be separated out as a group for breeding later in the season. The steer groups will also head out where they will pasture alongside neighbouring herds.
When out in ‘public’ (mingling with other cattle), our cattle are susceptible to any diseases carried or found in the ground, passed from other cattle, animals, or insects and seasonal viruses. We help them to stay healthy by giving them a thorough check-up before heading out – we call this processing.
Processing can be a big scary word, but what are you doing? Why are you doing it? What does it include? Are the animals ok? It can vary a lot depending on the time of year and what type of animal is going through the chute. A chute is a squeeze that restrains the animal so that both the animal and the handler remain safe. In this case processing included: weighing, vaccinating, implanting and administering parasite control; all in effort to protect our cattle, and help them to have a healthy summer grazing period.
We begin by weighing the yearlings in the chute. The weight will allow us to sort them into similar weight groups. This is important as a producer to allow us to monitor weight gain, quickly identify an animal who may be sick, and also allow for more proficient marketing in the fall.
The next step is vaccinating. The yearlings are given a booster shot of a vaccine that protects the cattle from blackleg, tetanus, infectious necrotic hepatitis, pulpy kidney, and malignant edema. The second shot was more like a flu shot which includes protecting them from infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) types 1 & 2, and pneumonia.
Before they leave the chute they will get a drizzle of insect repellent. This protects the cattle from biting lice and horn flies; these pests can be horribly irritating and debilitating in the heat of the summer.
The steers get a little more attention before they leave the chute. Steers are castrated males and therefore produce less hormones than if they had been left intact. This being said, these steers require hormone replacement therapy in order to grow properly. At Grant Ranch we use implants for these steers. These are small hormone pellets placed under the skin on the back of the ear that release slowly over a set number of days. This helps the steer to gain muscle versus fat. As a bonus it reduces the impact beef cattle have on the environment.
‘Processing’ is now complete. Our animals are ready for thier pasture adventure.
The Grass is Greener….
Heading out to green grass always sounds pleasant. Especially when you can see and smell the lushness of it in the air. However, with the amount of rain we have had over the last week makes some dry areas just a little bit more wet. In the video below we are crossing Snake Creek on a road that is normally high and dry. As you can see the water is high and running over the road. This is due in part from the snow melt in an area upstream, plus the rain/snow that we had last week. The yearlings are cautious about crossing in about 4 inches of water; they have unstable footing but take it slow in the rushing water.
The Alberta Beef Producers have written a noteworthy article about how implants work. Check it out here.
For more information on the environmental footprint of beef cattle please click here.
If you are worried about hormones in cattle please see our link under Resources.