Cows, calves, and the kids that chase them home

Host: Mystery Park
Written by – Tess Camm, Owner, Mystery Park.

It’s a steady start getting all the little people’s horses saddled and sorted in the morning, but they more than make up for the effort during the muster!

3_1Lending a hand.

Today we are mustering a mob of young cows with their first calf at foot. The calves range from three months to five months of age, meaning the hard working little mothers are at peak lactation.

3_2Lachlan and Rob McArthur keep the tail of the mob coming along.

The goal is to have the calves weaned in the middle of November, when they are four to six months old. This will allow the first time mothers to stop lactating and redirect their energy to gaining weight as the wet season sets in over summer. We will then mate these cows as the grass begins to grow, which inherently causes a spike in reproductive activities in the cowherd.

These are all natural occurrences that we are simply trying to manipulate to our advantage. For example this plan has been in progress for over a year now, for the young heifers had to be in calf to the bull by a certain date, so the cows calved when the grass was at peak nutrition levels in April, allowing the calves to receive the best possible milk as they grew, in order to raise weanable calves in time for the mothers to get back in calf as the following year’s wet season sets in. Older cows don’t have the same luxury, and are expected to reconceive while lactating in order to wean a calf every year. In the beef business, our management today determines next year’s profits.

Ainsley and baby Eliza McArthur get plenty of warning before smoko as the cattle are mustered by the house on the way to the yards.

Now back to today’s muster. The task at hand was to draft a line of steers out that had been boxed (combined) with this herd earlier for conveniences sake. Since we are now supplementing these cows and calves with a protein meal based dry lick, every animal consuming this feed is costing us money. Hence it was time to find these little lads a new home where snacking on the hard working wet cow’s supplement was not an option! While the cows and calves were in the yards, it was the perfect opportunity to weigh a sample of the calves to accurately estimate how heavy they will be when we wean next month.

As we drafted the cattle, we watched closely for evidence of ticks or parasites that could be potential hindrances on animal performance. This mob was relatively clean from parasites, meaning the best thing we can do for them is to keep adequate nutrition up to the cows with the best quality pasture we can provide, and a suitable supplement to help them utilise the pasture effectively. In a few short weeks we will wean these calves and the cow’s hard yakka for the year will be done, all she has to do now is grow fat, happy and of course, pregnant!

3_4Making the most of every hour of daylight during school holidays.