This spring and summer has been a boom for calving here at the farm. A lot goes into calving and most of it is new to us. I certainly never imagined having most of my arm up inside a delivering cow, nor did I picture myself coaxing a new babe to life in one of my favorite dresses! I also didn’t realize that there is a lot to do after the birth, some of it pretty tricky.
There are several opinions of when is the best time to neuter a bull calf. Even though some say waiting several months is preferable, I feel like it is more invasive and less humane. We decided to neuter our bull calves, making them steers, soon after birth. Here is the deal though…..mama cows are pretty protective of those new little tots and Steve winces at the mere mention of shriveling balls due to a rubber band suffocating “the boys”. Steve must have spent 20 minutes solemnly staring at the contraption as he squeezed and released the banding mechanism. We had no option but to get out there and do the deed within 24 hours of birth, so Steve had to man up, ashen-faced and all, to get it done while the calf was still kind of wobbly. The two of us getting that baby on the ground, away from his mama, turning him over onto his back, holding him down, and then banding the scrotum, doing it correctly on the first try because we probably would not get a second chance, all while Steve is unaware that he is crossing his own legs, was a miraculous feat…..high fives all the way around. First post partum job complete.
The next must-do is to tag the calf’s ear for identification purposes. Having so many red angus female calves born within days of one another, there is no way we will be able to tell them apart in the coming months. Tagging the ear is just about the same as an ear piercing, except there is the above mentioned doting mama cow that does not appreciate anyone messing with her baby, making the procedure a little more challenging. Steve and I watched a youtube video over and over again to make sure we knew exactly where to place the piercer. It must go in-between the three bands of cartilage or else it will hurt the calf and not be affixed properly. Tagging a calf is a one shot deal, once done, it’s permanent, there is no “do over”. I held down the calf while Steve tried to steady his hand as he felt for the correct placement, all the while keeping a keen eye on the stressed out mama cow.
Okay, I did a phenomenal job of holding the first calf in place. And Steve did a bang up job of finding the correct placement for the piercing. Epic rookie fail?..........apparently there is a forward and backward to the piercer. Yep, tag went in behind, instead of in front of the ear, making her look like the kid of clueless parents. Hey, it could have been worse. We could have mistakenly banded the ears and pierced the balls!