Friday was a big day for the calves. They finally moved off the ranch and are headed to cow-college. At college, they will develop into full-fledged cows and exit ready to fulfill their life’s purpose.
Their journey toward cow-hood began approximately a month ago when the little calves were weaned. Weaning is the technical term for teaching the calves to eat hay and grass instead of their mother’s milk. The calves are taken, in one fell swoop, from their mothers’ teet to a separate pen with hay. No milk here, kiddos. The calves then spend a few days bawling for their moms and the moms bawl for their babies. Most mothers of nursing children will testify that this part of the journey tugs at their heart-strings. Sometimes, the concept actually makes their udders ache. But that’s enough talk about udders. . .
Now, if we’d had the blog up and running at this point in their journey, I would have written a whopper about what happened to our calves when they were separated from their moms. Long story short, a few wiley calves decided to take it upon themselves to find their way back to Mom who was a good five or six miles to the west. Upon discovering the missing bovines, the story involved a horse-trough turned escape route, Justin roping calves along the highway, Randy Sue loping through meadows, Ken driving the trailer back and forth at least five times, a neighbors corral, and about 10 hours of chaos. In the end, we had all our calves back at the ranch, and we also had a super-secure calf pen.
Once they are weaned, the calves are ready to go. Randy Sue, along with a few other local ranchers, sells her calves to a buyer in Texas. The ranchers convene in Kremmling before the calves are loaded and shipped to Texas. Here’s a step-by-step account of the departure day.
Step 1: The steers and heifers are separated at the ranch before being loaded calves in the trailer to take to neighbor’s ranch near Kremmling.
Step 2: The group of steers is weighed, then the group of heifers is weighed. The scale looks like any other pen you’d see. While calves are in the pen, the weight is registered in an adjacent building. We weigh calves both to determine shipping load and to determine the average weight per calf. Here, Justin and Randy Sue await the final reading for the steers. Randy Sue’s average steer weighed 587 pounds; heifers average weight was around 540 pounds.
Step 3: The groups of calves brought by different ranchers are kept in separate pens. Two important checks need to take place before the calves can be loaded in the trailer. The vet must complete a health inspection to ensure no sick calves are being shipped. Also, the brand inspector checks brands to ensure the calves being sold belong to ranchers.
Step 4: The calves are loaded into the trailer. Cow trailers are pretty nifty deals. There are ramps that go up and down, and gates to divide groups of cows. Justin ensured that our calves got a nice pen on the upper level for their trip.
Step 5: They’re off! They will spend the winter on a wheat field in Texas before heading to a feed lot. So long little buddies!