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Posts Tagged ‘alfalfa pellets’

Weaning Time Again

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

calf-nursing-on-69

Cross Creek Cattle Company is in the process of weaning 10 calves right now.  My mom surprised me by visiting the ranch.  Her house is very close to the barn where we separate the calves from the mama cows.  She got to enjoy the endless ballads that the calves sang to their mamas and the mamas sang to their calves.  Needless to say, she did not sleep very well the first night of weaning.

It has been a couple of days now and the serenade has stopped.  The mama cows have left their calves and rejoined the herd grazing in the bottom.  The calves are adjusting to their new no-dairy diet.

Weaning time is a stressful time for both the cow and her calf.  At Cross Creek Cattle Company we try to eliminate as much stress as possible.  A stout pipe fence with cattle panel welded to it separate the calves from the cows.  The cows can see, smell, and speak to one another.  The calves just cannot nurse.

The calves are enjoying eating grass, which they have done for months.  They just are not supplementing their diets with milk anymore.  To help maintain their body condition during this time of adjustment, we feed them a very small daily ration of alfalfa pellets.  Alfalfa is very high in protein grass.  We start the calves on a small ration and slowly build up their daily allowance of the dehydrated grass to prevent bloat.  Cows can bloat on alfalfa because it is so rich.

The calves also have their own mixture of kelp meal, stock salt, and diatomaceous earth.  We continue to allow them to freely partake of this mineral supplement and natural de-wormer.  It is self-limiting.  They can only take what their body needs.  Of course, we supply the calves with fresh clean water and hay.

Soon we will be able to return these calves back to the herd.  Their mothers will welcome them back as adolescents; however, they will not be allowed to nurse.  The cows’ milk supply will have dried up.  There will always be one calf in the bunch who tries to resume nursing, but it is quickly kicked away.  Calves will be calves.

Weaning time means that we decide how the calves are going to work for us.  We will determine if we have any show heifers.  We will sell some to other ranchers.  We have some that we will keep to build up our herd.  Of course, we also have our grass fed beef business.  If you are interested in ordering delicious and nutritious grass fed beef, contact me at lndehaven@aol.com or call (936)870-5792.

Weaning Grassfed Calves

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Traditionally, a rancher who wanted to wean some calves would separate them from the herd and pour feed to them.  The calves would fatten up on the grain until the rancher decided what to do with them.  He/She would decide which calves needed to return to the herd, which ones he/she was going to continue to fatten up to eat, and which ones he/she would sell.  With a grassfed herd, the traditional way to wean is out.  One cannot wean their calves on grain and sell them as grassfed.

Some of our weaned calves.

Some of our weaned calves.

Therefore at Cross Creek Cattle Company, we wean differently.  We still separate the calves from their mothers.  In order to make the transition less stressful, they are separated by a stout metal fence.  The cow and calf can still see each other and call to one another.  The calves just cannot nurse.  Usually by the second day the cows decide to leave their calf and go grazing in a different pasture.  Sometimes a cow will decide sooner.  Either way the cow knows where her calf is and she knows that it is fine.

The calves have access to plenty of water, hay, and grass.  We carefully monitor the grass situation to ensure that the calves have what they need.  After a week or so, we begin feeding them alfalfa pellets, which is dehydrated alfalfa grass in pellet form.  Alfalfa is a high-quality grass.  It is high in protein.  Therefore, the calves do well on it.  Unfortunately, alfalfa does not grow well in this area, which is why we choose to feed it in pellet form.

However, cows can bloat on such rich grass if their bodies are not adjusted to it slowly.  We begin with 1/2 pound of alfalfa pellets per calf a day.  We slowly work them up to 2 pounds a day of alfalfa.  This helps to ensure that their body condition does not fall behind while they are going through the transition of weaning.

We have several pens in which to graze so that they always have a good supply of grass.  We even use electric fencing to help us separate large pastures into smaller grazing fields.  This ensures that all the grasses are getting eaten.  Sometimes cows will selectively eat a pasture.  Then a rancher has to come behind them and shred the grasses that are left.  This is a waste.  It is like a child who will not eat their vegetables and a parent who throws them away every evening.

Our calves look just as good as the traditionally weaned calves.  They have maintained great body condition without the use of grains and other feeds.  They have eaten grass in several forms: fresh in the pastures, dried in the form of hay, and dehydrated in pellets.  Grass and water is really all a cow needs.  It is healthier for them and for us, which is why we raise grassfed beef.



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