Fall and Winter:
We typically purchase male weanlings from September to December - calves about 300 pounds. After the new calves are transported to our farm they are processed which includes vaccinations, branding, tagging and if necessary, castrating and dehorning. Individual identification and vaccines are important for maintaining and tracking herd health to limit the number of animals that get sick. All of our animals are either polled (born with no horns) or dehorned to decrease the risk of the steers injuring other animals or handlers.
(Calves bought in the fall of 2014, eating their morning grain in January 2015)
Over the winter the young calves are fed hay and a grain mix, all to encourage growth in the size of their frame. They are allowed free access to the grass/alfalfa mix hay bales and then each morning the calves are fed a nutritious ration of rolled oats and supplement to provide essential minerals and vitamins for healthy growth.
The cattle are rotated through pastures during the summer where they grow even taller and leggier before beginning to fill out. Each pasture either has access to well-fed waterers or troughs filled from a dugout via a solar power system. The majority of the herd is sold to a feedlot in late August/September where they are finished for slaughter.
In the spring we select a few steers out of the main herd that have a clean health record, solid frames and have begun to show some condition (layer of fat). These animals are not given a growth hormone and are kept in a separate pasture. They are fed additional grain mix (either barley and/or oats) with supplement each morning and evening to increase muscle and fat deposition. When they reach finish weight, which is usually around 1100 pounds, they are transported to Barrhead Meats for processing.
(June 2014 steers on summer pasture)
Our farm's cow-calf operation began in the fall of 2014 with the purchase of 51 Black Angus bred heifers. Later on, a few other Angus cross and Simmental cross cows were added to the herd. They were expected to calve March to April, when the weather is milder. As well, Andria, Jessica and Briana each have their own mini cow herds that began when they were each in elementary school. This program is in conjunction with family friends, as Janet and Rod were not so keen on calving back then. Some of the calves from these cows were entered and shown as 4-H projects. They started as Angus cross, but are now seeing more Shorthorn influence as the heifers are being kept. The purchase of a Shorthorn bull is also in the works to improve the genetics of the offspring.
Breeding: This program is still being developed. We are still trying to figure out our best options with pens, breeds, seasons, etc. This summer the main, Angus cow herd will be bred to Red Angus and Simmental bulls to produce some commercial calves to be 'sold' to the backgrounding operation.
We start calving in April on pasture where the calves can be born on dry grass. They are also provided with sheds and straw to provide some added protection from wind, rain and snow. The herd is regularly checked to see which cows are close to calving and to be able to provide assistance if a cow is having trouble.
Some of the heifer calves may be kept as replacement heifers for our own herd and others may be sold through the local auction mart to other producers or to feedlots. The steer calves from the Angus herd will be 'sold' to our own backgrounding operation. As calves they will be castrated, tagged and vaccinated to minimize stress and pain. If we wait until weaning (at 5-6 months old) then the pain of these procedures would be more painful and cause the calves more stress. Weaning is also done to minimize the stress put on the calves. We do through-the-fence weaning. This means that all the calves are separated from their mothers and moved to a corral pen. The cows are kept in the pasture next to the corral so they may still have physical contact, but the calves are no longer able to milk. By keeping the same group of calves together before, during and after weaning, we can also reduce their stress. After a couple days, the cows are moved further away to eliminate physical contact. As yearlings, the calves will be separated into various groups which will depend on our plans for the coming up year.
(Calf of the first calf crop born on the Carlyon farm)