“It’s all about getting calves ready for what’s next in their life.” These are some of the fundamentals in preparing calves for weaning at Lazy Y Cattle Company.
The year 2008 was not a normal year in anyone’s mind; but what is normal about the cattle business anyhow? When weaning time — or more practically put, “transition time” for calves occurred at the ranch, a fence line system to wean was practiced. It was the first time this system had been used at the ranch, and when the time came conditions were dry and dusty. A couple of calves had already been treated for minor respiratory problems and these could have been compounded from the stress of weaning in a dusty dry-lot.
“Stress is the first limiting factor in performance,” says Levi Whipps. “We believe in combating this with a good mineral and vitamin program - it’s an added bonus. We start all our calves on CRYSTALYX® Brigade® to help them deal with stress. We have seen an increase in their appetite and improved health. We really like the results."
Brigade® actually prepared the cattle. The old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is often an understatement. Most weaning programs that include CRYSTALYX® Brigade® involve placing barrels at the moment of calf separation from their dams. For Lazy Y Cattle Co., Brigade® barrels were placed with cows and calves on pasture one month prior to fence line weaning.
Approximately five days prior to separation, the cow-calf pairs were moved to a pasture consisting of both native range and a field of volunteer wheat stubble. The weaning transition took place over a seven-day window. The fence line weaning system consisted of holding cows in portable corrals on one end of the pasture and then placing calves back on the same pasture of native range and volunteer wheat. Brigade® barrels were then placed in three separate areas; near the corral, at a midpoint near water in the native rangeland, and in the volunteer wheat.
Placing barrels as such not only supplied additional supplement at a stressful time for the calves, it aided the fence line system as it gave calves another reason to graze out and away from the cows held at the corral. “The calves would loaf near the cows at times but would also graze to and from the barrels. Within three days our calves were fine, and we had no additional sick calves,” said Levi.
With CRYSTALYX® being offered ahead of time, and with the pasture being previously known to calves, it made the weaning transition less stressful. Pasture management and understanding animal behavior were an integral part of the success.
The month-long period of feeding Brigade® to cow calf pairs prior to weaning, not only helped provide needed nutrition but it also helped Lazy Y better manage some rough native rangeland in areas nearly a mile from water. These areas typically do not get the best use of all grass that can potentially be grazed. Thus, CRYSTALYX® was used as a pasture management tool.
Once calves were weaned and in a relatively large pasture, the volunteer wheat stubble was nearly one mile from where the cows were corralled. Since the calves were already familiar with CRYSTALYX®, placing additional barrels in the wheat stubble helped attract the calves away from the cows and onto a higher quality forage.