Most years we purchase calves in the fall to winter in our backgrounding lot. Backgrounding is putting light weight calves on a high roughage ration to grow out their frame. These calves will be processed and settled after they arrive. We want to ensure the health and comfort of our new comers so they will be happy at their new home.
This year we received most of our shipments of calves late at night, after 10 p.m. Because working with cattle in the dark is not ideal either Dean or Lynn unloads them from the truck and settles them in a pen in our corrals for the night. We receive one shipment at a time (around 100- 120 head) so we can process them in smaller bunches.
Once they come off the truck they are let into our calf run that is already prepared with fresh water, feed, and lots of straw for warmth and comfort. Shipping can cause some slight weight loss and so we want to make sure that our new calves are back on track immediately. Then we say goodnight and let them relax after their journey.
The next day is when we process the calves. They are directed down our processing chute and then weighed. The calves we’ve received vary from 450 to 500 pounds. Then they are dewormed and immunized- we want to be sure that they stay healthy and that they don’t bring any outside bugs into our facility. Lastly, they are given an ear tag with a number on it so we can keep track of them.
Usually we let that batch of calves settle in our calf run and then move them to the pen where they will reside during their six-month stay in the backgounding lot. Once they are in their pen we work to make sure they are settled. This process involves staying in the pen with them to calm them down, limit pacing, and showing them where the food and water is. This process can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 40 minutes depending on how excitable the bunch is.
This year however we had to use a different approach. We have had a lot of fall precipitation and not a lot of freezing temperatures so our feedlot is very muddy. Instead of making matters worse by putting calves on already soupy ground we have put them on grass in pasture next to our yard for the time being. They are still being fed rations in bunks like they would in the feedlot. We are hoping for the ground to freeze soon so we can move them into their pens before the snow comes.
We try to give the calves as much exposure to us as we can. They are going to be seeing a lot of us for the next six months. We feed them, treat them for sickness, and move them around if needed. By the end of the winter they are usually very excited to see us walking through the gate – it means that food is coming!