The weather has been cool and rainy this past week, but it's time to get the pairs out on pasture! Our pairs are sorted into 3 pastures close to ranch headquarters as they leave the calving barn. We sort them according to how we want our breeding groups to work out.
Moving baby calves is always a challenge and we try to make it as easy on the calves as possible. To do this we gathered a group of pairs and moved them about 2-3 pastures from their old location, pair them back up and then let them rest for a day or so. We keep moving the bunch in this manner until we get them to the pasture that we will AI the cows in. After AIing all of the cows we will sort the pairs from the 3 large groups into their small natural service breeding groups, which we walk to individual pastures!
Here are some pictures of moving one bunch of cows!
The baby calves love running during the gather, we try to keep them up close to the cows in an effort to keep them from trying to 'run back'. When pairs are seperated and moved to a new location their instinct is if either half of the pair cannot find the other in the new location they will 'run back' to the last place they saw/smelled each other. When you're moving pastures this would be the old pasture. Cows and calves will travel miles and go through numerous fences to get back to where they believe the other half of their pair is. Which is why we try to make many small moves, when possible, and make sure the cattle are paired in the new pasture. Long moves also get the calves tired which increases their desire to run back to their old pasture. As the calves get older they get easier to move and their instinct to leave the group to run back decreases.
Baby calves are hard to move, mostly because they have had little experince. Think of it like herding cats! The cows on the other hand know when its time to move and for the most part will pick up and start moving while leaving the calves in the back, then like clockwork about halfway to the new pasture the cows will remember the calves and turn to run back and get them. Cows turning and running back make the calves in the back even harder to move. In an effort to slow the cows down/distract them we use the feed wagon to lead them to the new pasture. This instinct the cows feel also fades with as the calves get older.
Once we get the pairs to pasture we feed them and use this time to bunch the calves in with the cows. We then pair up any calves that need extra help finding their mom.
The rainy wet conditions made this move more difficult (and dirty)!