If you think a toddler wails loudly when separated from its mom, imagine the absolute cacophony of 200 calves bawling at the same time…then add the distressed cries of another 200 mama cows, looking for their babies.
“Say goodbye to Mama,” I chuckle with my ranch hands. Because, well, there ain’t no sissies in ranchin’!
But my insides hurt a little bit! Even though it happens twice a year every year, I still feel a twinge of sadness about separating the calves from their moms. Every ranch does this a little differently, but eventually when a calf reaches a certain age and weight, it’s time to wean it.
Newly-weaned calves are like an unruly, nervous, and very strong group of toddlers. They require extra care and supervision, and our goal is to make their weaning as stress-free as possible for them. Happy cows = healthy cows = happy Nina. 💁🏼♀️
We have a certain pasture area that is specifically designed for weaning calves, enclosed with steel fencing to keep them contained. These heavy duty fences are essential from a safety and security standpoint. Due to the nature of herd animals, when one starts running, they all do. If they were to get loose, get lost, or get injured, it would be a catastrophe.
Unfortunately, the week I chose to wean them ended up being one of the rainiest, most miserable weeks of the year. With 800 nervously-prancing hooves and torrential rain, the pen quickly turned to a muddy mess. I suggested that we move them to a greener, adjacent pasture a little ahead of schedule.
The first night in the new pasture, something spooked them and they completely ran over a barbed-wire fence and broke into the horse pasture! Lesson learned.
All in all, thanks to the dedication of my ranch-hands, the weaning period was successful. Before long, our calves had forgotten their taste for milk and were happily livin’ the vegan life.