Working for a cattle industry magazine has its perks. While traveling throughout the country to attend industry meetings and conferences and visiting with issue experts about the latest science driving advancements in cattle production are nice, those aren’t the perks I’m talking about.

Yesterday happened to be weaning day for some of my husband’s parents’ calves, and I was lucky enough to get to spend my day helping. My "day in the office" yesterday was a perk. 

All the pairs had previously made the trip to the home pasture to help reduce stress in calves before weaning. So our day started with a quick gathering of all the pairs and bringing them down to the pens to begin the sorting process.  Mamas go one way and calves the other. Before we began processing calves, we first took all the cows to a nearby pasture.

All of the calves were vaccinated with a 5-way modified live vaccine to prevent respiratory infections, including Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR), Parainfluenza-3 virus (PI-3), Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus Type 1 and Type 2 (BVD) and Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV). All calves were wormed and deloused and were vaccinated to prevent Pasteurella, black leg and pinkeye. Finally, the steers received an implant to promote growth.  

Before we could take gloves off for the day, the calves were let out of the pen to graze. While there are multiple methods to wean calves, fence-line weaning is the practice of choice for my father-in-law.

Weaning calves is something that takes place on every cattle operation for every calf crop, and our work yesterday was not unlike that taking place on operations across the country with spring-calving herds. And while it might have just been “another day’s work,” like I said before, it’s an absolutely perk of the job.

Here’s why.

At Drovers CattleNetwork¸ we regularly publish articles about cattle handling and the benefits that come from utilizing low-stress methods. Yesterday, I was able to put the topics from those articles into practice in the way we drove cattle to the pens and the way we processed calves. Weaning is naturally going to induce stress in the animals – our goal was to handle them in a way that caused as little stress as possible so both the cows and the calves would go back to pasture  and pick up where they left off.

It’s a well-known fact (and one that we talk about regularly at Drovers CattleNetwork) that respiratory diseases cause major economic losses throughout the industry from death loss, decreased weight gain and labor and treatment costs. As cattlemen and women, we not only have an obligation to care for our animals through disease prevention, but we also have an obligation to responsibly and judiciously use technologies, like vaccinations. By helping yesterday (and throughout the year on the ranch), I can see the benefits of these technologies firsthand.

Finally, there’s nothing quite like climbing in the saddle on a crisp fall morning, spending the day with family, and going home at night knowing that the animals we cared for will one day provide healthful and delicious beef for my family and yours.