One of our Labour Day traditions here at Applecross is to wean calves. We actually start the process a week earlier – when we put quiet-wean nose tags in all the calves, take the weaning weights and then turn them back out with their moms for one final week. We find the two-step process allows the calves to cure their milk addiction in week one, and then only have their separation anxiety to deal with once pulled on Labour day. Using the quiet wean nose tags seems to make for a quieter weaning, and the calves don’t seem to go back as much either.
The weaning weights are always exciting. I have a hard time judging weights in the field, and sometimes calves you think are close to the same size, can be almost 100 lbs apart when weighed. With the separate pastures for heifer and bull calves, I also find it difficult to relate between the two pastures – the big heifers don’t get to stand beside the bull bulls (which is definitely a good thing with the heifers starting to cycle!), but the drawback is not being able to get a good weight comparison. You always have a pretty good idea which calf is biggest in each particular pasture, but the size correlation always seem to be a mystery until that weight is taken. Add to this the adjustments for March calves vs. their January counterparts, for their 200 day weight, and the final tally can be eye-opening.
This year though, the heavyweights at weaning weren’t really a surprise. APLX Envoy 2Y has been the calf crop ‘big boy’ almost since birth, so it is not shocking he was the top calf. A Lady Western by Equinox son, Envoy is a full brother to APLX Ensign 2X from last year. He is exceptionally long, and has the power to develop into a polled performance bull, just like his brother. The top heifer was Applecross Janelle 7Y, an Anchor T Ikon by Jasmine, one of our Eclipse cows. As you can see from her August 1st picture, she has a lot of volume already, and we expect her to turn into a big capacity cow; just like her mama.
Of course, with weaning also comes decisions: Which calves make the grade? Which breds didn’t breed? Which cows came up open? What replacements should we keep back for our own use?
For the bulls that stay, development starts for the 2012 Red Deer Simmental Bull Sale next March, followed by some private treaty sale for a few March calves that we think still make the grade as herd bulls.
For our keeper heifers calves, the big decision on them gets deferred. We think the heifers form a really nice group, and would like to keep them all, but as we are nearing our size capacity, we feel we should potentially start to sell some. At this point we are tentatively planning to market females in the fall 2012 sales season, but a lot can change in the next 12 months. In any event, we will have to start selling females some time, which will be an exciting next step for Applecross.
Regardless of whether it is a bull or heifer calf, it is great to get to start looking at them as individuals, and comparing them to their peer group. Yes, it will still be a little noisy for a few days, but it is just another step in the breeding stock cycle, and soon enough the cows will be back focussing on grass, and the calves will start growing and developing on their own.
It is often also the perfect opportunity for us to update our cattle pictures as well. We try to refresh our pictures at least once a year, especially the first and second calvers, whose appearance can change a tremendous amount over the course of a year, and (of course), not every cow co-operates when you are out trying to get good pictures. There are always a number of cows that have a ‘good but not great’ picture, that just doesn’t do justice to how they look working the pasture – thus we want to ensure our herdbook pictures are as accurate a reflection as possible as to what they look like. September starts the clock ticking on the last window of opportunity to get that better picture before the udder dries up for another year.
Fortunately for us, we have been blessed with a gorgeous start to September, and nothing but clear skies and warm summer temperatures forecast for the next two weeks. After trying summer conditions, it is good to get a spell of good weather; hopefully leading to a great head start on getting the fall work done, yet still leave plenty of time for walking the cattle (camera in hand), watching the latest batch of Applecross calves develop.