This is one of my favorite topics! I believe it's grown into being one of my most unique and highest skill sets. What I love most about it, is the learning and improving never stops. If anyone tells you they are a master cattle manager, don't take their advise. We're talking about the management of living creators. Where as they definitely have tendencies I take advantage of, each one is different and will react differently. The moment you think you have them figured out, they'll do something that surprises you and completely blows up a management situation.
So let's start with birth. I manage my breeding cows on water, rotationally grazed pasture, hay and selenium blocks. That's all they get. It's a basic diet that yields average sized cows in terms of weight. They gain weight during the grazing season and loose weight during the winter months. This keep them relatively balance. That along with exercise creates high success rates with calving.
When calves are born, I try to tag them all within 30 days of age. I band castrate bulls within the same timeframe. This is a very effective strategy to manage stress. Basically, at this age, they barely notice they've been banded and they have their mothers to comfort them if they do feel any discomfort.
We pretty much leave them alone until they are about 5 - 6 months of age. At this point, we wean them from their mothers. This can be a stressful event as well, but our strategy is to keep the cows and calves in places where they can see and hear each other. They moo back and forth for a few days but eventually accept the situation. I think a certain level of comfort is present on both sides at least knowing where each other is at. These weaned calves are now in a different herd of cattle, all calves that have been born on the farm.
Almost all movement/herding around the farm is designed for the cattle to follow me instead of me getting behind them and pushing them places. Pushing cattle engages their flight instincts which is a stress induced response. So, by moving them through "following", I can eliminate a lot of stress responses throughout their lives on the farm..
At about 17 - 18 months of age, I take the calves off of pasture and "finish" them for 90-120 days on a grain diet. At the end of this period, I ship them for processing. Here is a major stress minimizing moment. The processors we us are only about a 25 minute trailer ride from the farm. So, from the moment I first move them from the environment they are accustomed to until they are processed, only about 1 hour goes by. This minimizes stress time. In many cases in the general beef industry, cattle can be in transport or waiting or processing for 24 - 72 hours or longer. That's a lot of stress.
The Carwood Mission is "Raising happy healthy cows, while building a happy healthy community". The areas I focus to create happy lives for cows is: minimize stress, provide a nutritious diet and a clean environment.
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