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Weaning Advice

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LisaW

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We have limited pasture right now. I have 4 calves I need to wean shortly. I would like to be able to put them back together when we start feeding hay regularly. Currently we have a very limited bit of grass left - hoping the rain will help with that problem.

How long do I need to keep the calves separated from the cows? I'm curious about the milk drying up - how long does that generally take?

Last year when we weaned we had even less pasture space and the fences weren't as good so we had multiple break-outs. When we finally gave up and put them back together, the yearling heifer started sucking off the cows. I was frustrated, to say the least (she had been weaned the previous year and was pregnant at the time even). I don't want a repeat of last year.

I do plan to start them off in neighboring pastures for a few days then move them to "out of sight, out of mind" pastures for as long as I can. I also plan to keep the steer we are finishing for butchering with the calves. Any suggestions or pointers would be great.

Thanks
Lisa
 

Dave

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The weather since last Saturday should help your grass situation. I think our summer drought is over. Back to the two seasons of western Washington weather, warm rain and cold rain.
If your cows and calves are hot wire trained, fenceline weaning works well. Just seperate them with 2 or 3 strands of good hot wire. Make sure that your fence is good and hot. Plenty of ground rods and good heavy wire with a good fence charger. This time of the year I even put a garden hose at the ground rods occasionally for a hour or two to soak the ground good. Leave them there where they can see each other for at least a week or maybe two. Them gradually move them away from each other.
Dave
 

dun

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We fenceline wean like Dave, but we only leave the cows next to the calves for a couple of days. When the cows shut up, they're usually the noisiest of the deal, we start migrating them away to further pastures and leave the calves in the one they started the weaning process in.
We keep the replacements seperate from the cows for 4-6 weeks, sometimes a little longer. Depends on when the steers head to the feedlot. That's when we just recombine the weaned heifers with the cows. This year for the first time we had a heifer that started to sneak a suck here and there. Funny that it corresponded to the beginning of her real barn burner heats. Didn't matter, she was headed for the freezer anyway. If she hadn't been, she would have grown wheels

dun
 

txshowmom

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We wean our in another pasture out of sight out of mind from day 1 of the weaning process and usually keep them away for 90 days.
 
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LisaW

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Yeah, fence line weaning is where we'll start. So, I take it that 4 to 6 weeks of separation and I should be able to put them all back together? I do have one young one and I'd like to take them all at the same time without it being too early for her. The older 3 are late April/early May but she's early June. Is it too soon to wean her this weekend, in your opinion? I'll have to suppliment with hay in the field they'll go in - wish I didn't have to. But then we'll move them all to the winter pasture together as soon as the weaning is done (unless the grass starts to pop up fast again).

Thanks for the help. :)

Lisa
 

jt

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LisaW":346cx7vt said:
The older 3 are late April/early May but she's early June. Is it too soon to wean her this weekend, in your opinion?
Lisa


i wean mine at 6-8 months old.. there are exceptions, but rare. i shoot for 7 months.


jt
 

txshowmom

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We have weaned as early as 4 mo. I have been read several articles recently that are encouraging weaning as early ar 90 days without anyy adverse side effects. Cattle mature earlier etc.
 

dun

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LisaW":1eqv4ivx said:
Yeah, fence line weaning is where we'll start. So, I take it that 4 to 6 weeks of separation and I should be able to put them all back together? I do have one young one and I'd like to take them all at the same time without it being too early for her. The older 3 are late April/early May but she's early June. Is it too soon to wean her this weekend, in your opinion? I'll have to suppliment with hay in the field they'll go in - wish I didn't have to. But then we'll move them all to the winter pasture together as soon as the weaning is done (unless the grass starts to pop up fast again).

Thanks for the help. :)

Lisa

The diversity of ages does make a little bit of a situation, but I'ld go ahead and do it, but I'ld be supplementing them all with a moderate grain supplement diet for that 4-8 weeks

dun
 

Dave

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If you plan on keeping the calves there is probably no advantage to weaning them now. If it is purely a feed issue. I would think about pulling them all off the pasture and feeding all of them. I would do this for two reasons. The calves will do better left on their mom's for a while yet. This age is plenty early to be weaning. The second reason is that for pasture management in Western Washington Aug/Sept is the easiest time to over graze a field and adversely effect the field. IMHO, If you are going to have to feed the calves you might as well feed the cows too. A couple weeks of feeding right now could make for a couple of months grazing this fall. You will probably be better off to feed them all and let the grass get caught up.
Dave
 
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If this is the second year in a row where you had grass problems, did you ever think you might be overgrazing and have too many cows?

Maybe you should ship the calves instead of weaning them?
 
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LisaW

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The trouble right now is the weather. We've had very hot and dry summers where the grass just isn't growing this year and last. Add to that the fact that we've been bringing this place out of about 10 years of non-use. Between the blackberries and the downed fences - it's been quite a chore. Now we've got 5 pastures to rotate between for 4 cow/calf pairs and 3 steers - and two horses.

We had to start to feed hay last year in early August. This year we might get by with a few more weeks before we need to feed hay. We're hoping the rain will bring back some grass and hold us out a little longer. Feeding hay from August to late April really stunk. It didn't help that last year's bull came really late and this year's bull did too. *sigh* I'm hoping for April/May calves at the latest next year - pipe dream you think? ;)

I need to pull my steers out to finish them and we only have one winter pasture/sacrifice area. I can't wean them once we move into that pasture as we only have one feeding area. My daughter wants to halter break the heifer calves for fair next year (we'll see if that actually happens) so we'll likely be graining all 4 calves with the steers on top of the hay - some for incentive, some for necessity. The late calf is this cows first calf, she's a good size compared to all the others.

I guess what I'm looking for in all this dialog is simply dialog - pointers, suggestions and if I'm way off base for someone to hollar at me and help me figure out what to do next. I've only been doing this for 4 years and we've sure learned from our mistakes! I just don't want to make another biggie this year.

So heifers will tend to suck again, if given an opportunity, when they're comming into heat? I forget where I read that - does that sound right to you guys? I wonder if that is something I'll have to deal with again next year....
 

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Her problem for a second year in a row is no rain during the summer. Image Seattle, where it supposedly rains all the time, going through a drought. I realize it is not much of a drought compared to other parts of the country. We still get our 50 to 60 inches of rain a year. It has just all been coming in the winter when we don't need it. Cool season grasses, which are they only kind we have, don't do well in 90 degree temperature and no rain for three months.
I normally have no problem grazing up to the first of November. Last year I had to start feeding hay on August 20th. This year I rented another field and moved the cows on the 17th. Same number of cows. It has just been hot and dry.
Dave
 
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I still say if there's a grass problem, drought or no drought, you're probably overgrazing and may need to sell them. This will solve the weaning problem as well as part of the grass problem.
 

dun

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The heifer scuking when she came into heat was from my post. It isn't something that you would have to worry about. In 40 plus years this is the first time we've had a heifer start sucking. But then again, our heifers that are still here as yearlings are usually bred in the first cycles of the breeding season so they don't get into that "I'm so horny" stage like this heifer did.
What have you done to improve your pastures? Fertilize, interseed other grasses/legumes? Soil test?
Maybe a more intensive grazing type of managment.
I'm just whipping ideas out, you've probably thought of them, but maybe not. Trying to reclaim an ignored/abused farm is not much fun. But it's a young mans game. Better to do it now when you have the energy, etc. then wait till you're too old to really enjoy what you have accomplished

dun
 
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LisaW

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We've got 30 acres and 4 pairs with 3 steers but about only 18 usable acres right now. Of that 18 acres, maybe 8 acres is still not fenced or grazed right now. I guess the neighbor used the pasture for hay not too long before we got here - maybe 7 or 8 years ago. Other than that, it's been a race cource for go-karts and a haven for coyotes for the past 30 years.

The pastures are overgrazed right now, that's true. Part of that is the 'war' between myself and my husband as to when to pull them out and when to put them back. He feels sorry for them and whenever he sees the slightest bit of grass he'll move them there - even though where they are there's enough stuff to get them by, but he sees the grass they like and moves them. *sigh* It'll work itself out in time. But rotating through 5 pastues on 18 acres with such a small number shouldn't max the grass out within 4 months. The conservation district told me this spring that once we get everything rolling the way we have it planned we should be able to support 18 pairs. That I doubt - but still. It's a far cry from the 4 we currently have.

We have a mower we just got and an old harrow. This fall I plan to overseed with a local pasture mix recomended by the extention office. The soil is terrible, nasty clay, but I can't afford to lime it all adequately. We do have to keep our day jobs, after all. This venture isn't cheap! I'd like to aerate in the spring but don't see that happening in this next year.

So dun - you figure we won't see the heifer-sucking thing again if we keep on top of our breeding? That would be nice. I ended up with my boy's BB gun shooting both the cow and the heifer in the butts to get them to quit. I was so disgusted with both of them.

At any rate, I can't justify selling any of our animals right now. Hay is still cheaper than the loss we'd take selling this time of year. Not by much, mind you, but if you throw in the long haul expectation - there's no match. If that's the case, we may as well sell off and move back to town. *sigh*

Any other suggestions to get our pastures in better shape?

How about weaning suggestions - any more?

I sure appreciate you all letting me pick your brains about this stuff. Well, actually you're offering - :D Thanks!
 

dun

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LisaW":1qkge3zk said:
We've got 30 acres and 4 pairs with 3 steers but about only 18 usable acres right now. Of that 18 acres, maybe 8 acres is still not fenced or grazed right now. I guess the neighbor used the pasture for hay not too long before we got here - maybe 7 or 8 years ago. Other than that, it's been a race cource for go-karts and a haven for coyotes for the past 30 years.

The pastures are overgrazed right now, that's true. Part of that is the 'war' between myself and my husband as to when to pull them out and when to put them back. He feels sorry for them and whenever he sees the slightest bit of grass he'll move them there - even though where they are there's enough stuff to get them by, but he sees the grass they like and moves them. *sigh* It'll work itself out in time. But rotating through 5 pastues on 18 acres with such a small number shouldn't max the grass out within 4 months. The conservation district told me this spring that once we get everything rolling the way we have it planned we should be able to support 18 pairs. That I doubt - but still. It's a far cry from the 4 we currently have.

We have a mower we just got and an old harrow. This fall I plan to overseed with a local pasture mix recomended by the extention office. The soil is terrible, nasty clay, but I can't afford to lime it all adequately. We do have to keep our day jobs, after all. This venture isn't cheap! I'd like to aerate in the spring but don't see that happening in this next year.

So dun - you figure we won't see the heifer-sucking thing again if we keep on top of our breeding? That would be nice. I ended up with my boy's BB gun shooting both the cow and the heifer in the butts to get them to quit. I was so disgusted with both of them.

At any rate, I can't justify selling any of our animals right now. Hay is still cheaper than the loss we'd take selling this time of year. Not by much, mind you, but if you throw in the long haul expectation - there's no match. If that's the case, we may as well sell off and move back to town. *sigh*

Any other suggestions to get our pastures in better shape?

How about weaning suggestions - any more?

I sure appreciate you all letting me pick your brains about this stuff. Well, actually you're offering - :D Thanks!

Smaller paddocks within each pasture will leave more grass to eat and less wasted by trampling. Soil test, first thing before seed or anything else. Then bring it up to test even if you have to lime and not apply seed or fertilizer. It's surprising how well natvie stuff will grow if you get the ph right. Without the right ph you might just as well go pour the seed and fertilizer on the road. If it's only a little off you can get by, but if it's much off the plants can't utilize the nutrients that you have available or are trying to make available by fertilizing.
A little sotry about one of our x-neighbors. Every year he fertilized the snot out of his hay filds, someting i nthe neighborhood of 300 lbs a year per acre. He alwasy whined about his grass just not growing. I asked about lime and he said it was too expensive so he didn't do it. He sold out and the gent that bought the place promptly did a soil test. The ph was so far off I don't understand how weeds managed to grow. He applied lime and you could almost loose the cows in the grass it rew so well. Now in 3 years he still hasn't had to fertilize and the grass is still growing great.
What I'm getting at is, ph is the key, everything else stems from that. In actualaility your husband may have the right idea. If you let the grass get grazed below the optimum height, some as low as 2 inches some as high as 4 inches, you're stealing from your future growth. If grass has to expend it's energys growing from the base it just makes it weaker. Without adequate leave area remaining after grazing the plant can't perform photosynthesis well enough to grow to it's potential.
If there is a grzgin school around you, attend it. The local extension or USDA NRCS should know of when and where one will be held..

dun
 
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LisaW

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I've limed two fields. We plowed, tilled and re-shaped so the water would drain away and not settle. The grass grew okay, not that great. But the real test will be after this winter and into next spring. It could just be that I let the animals into the field too soon and didn't get to see the fullness of the grass. We'll see. Those two fields are about an acre each. The winter pasture is about 2 acres, will be split in half and rotated between the two for as long as possible - mud control. The other two pastures are between 1 1/2 and 3 acres. I know it doesn't add up to 18 acres. The way it's set up - between the roads, the creek and the woods - that's where we are. We've got 18 usable acres and only a part of it being used. I guess my math was wrong earlier - we've got 10 left to get ready, not 8.

At any rate, I'll look into lime again. The two back fields we've done very well with just clipping and not letting them graze below 3 inches (well, I try). My husband lets them graze their favorite stuff down to the mud then pulls them out. I'm suprised any of it grows back at all. We've had to re-shape those pastures too. At one point there was a large pond that someone backfilled. We re-dug it and it's dried up more than we could imagine. But with all that soil disturbance, we've gotten a lot of weeds - which we've clipped and seem to have done well in that way.

When it stops raining I'll see about a soil test with the co-op and see what the extention office and the co-op recommend. If I can't afford lime - any other suggestions? The two smaller fields I hand spread the lime and seed. I'm not going to do that again. ;) I did notice that the lime helped keep away the swamp grass - stuff people pay to buy and put into their little pond/gardens. *rolleyes*

Thanks again. :)
 
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Years ago my neighbor had a bull that was sucking cows. Once he figured it out that old boy was on his way to the hamburger factory. :mad:
 

dun

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I had misintereted your earlier post about moving them around.
The whole point in intensive grazing is that they are put into small enough paddocks that they graze everything and not just the favorites. And they get the job done in around 3 days. Theoretically grass starts to regrow after it's been cut for 3 days. I don't know how they figure this stuff out, but that's what is claimed. That's the reason for moving them frequently, so they don't keep going back and grazing the desert and leaving the bread. After liming it takes a couple of months for the stuff to start having an affect. I'm trying to remember what I've learned and not just what we do. We do it because it was learned, but remembering the learning process is the tough part. You will find that hotwire is your best friend when it comes to rotational grazing. Polywire and step in posts allow flexibility that you just can't get any other way, and it's really pretty economical in the long run.
Where in NW WA are you located? There is such a difference in that area from the heavy clays to gravels to actual fertile soil. Then the flood areas through another whole new ball in the game. I used to be pretty familair with a lot of that area, but that was in the 50's and my memory sometimes isn't so pretty good about stuff that far back. Or this morning for that matter.

dun
 

Dave

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Which county are you in? I can send the of the name and number of the NRCS/conservation district/extension person in your area. All of the above have a ton of resources available on pasture management and it is all free to you. They will even come out to your place to show you the type of things you should do. There is a one day cattleman's winter school every year in Skagit count. It is held in January or February. The topics at it vary every but always worth the time. Contact Skagit county extension about this. There is generally a two day grazing seminar in the late summer of fall. I have attended several times and it is always worthwhile. They move it around the state every year and I haven't heard anything about the location for it this year.
Side question. Dun, what part of this state are you from?
Dave
 

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