Where did the calves go? Are they all here? It never seems to fail that when the crew goes out to gather the cow-calf pairs, we are short one. The obvious response is: Any dead ones? The crew looks wry-faced and reasserts that they can tell a dead calf, so no, they did not find a dead calf!
The day just became a long one because the anticipated work session now includes an extended ride to find the missing calf. It is not always a calf that goes missing. It could be a yearling or bull. In fact, sometimes the center actually has more cattle gathered than were turned out. A pair or two from the neighbor are present.
Either way, one can't let a 900-pound yearling not show up. The value is easily more than $1,300, so it certainly is worth reclaiming. The steer eventually was found in with the neighbor's cattle. So much for lecturing people about building good fences.
When it comes to counting and valuing inventory, ranching often slips, so the current inventory to the absolute cow is not known. Although missing cattle bring on some anxiety, they usually are found or simply come back home.
Upcoming fall cattle work is a good time to account for inventory and search for any missing or extra calves. As the cooler fall days arrive, a day will not go by when producers are not physically or at least mentally sorting and working calves. The key to successful fall management and inventory is the ability to slowly record, count and wean a calf from summer pasture to a backgrounding lot or feed yard.
This seems like a very logical process, but anyone who has tried to settle down a set of bawling calves knows otherwise. Perhaps the real target in weaning is removing those calves that walk away from the cow herd and start eating on their own and never look back. Those calves are less likely to end up in a sick pen because of less stress, so it is not only the vaccinations they have received that assure their health.
Although much of the focus of preparing calves for weaning is on vaccination protocols, producers never can lose sight that, in reality, stress is the big culprit, so the absolute need to eliminate stress in the operation is critical.
Having stress-free calves starts a long time before weaning by selecting the right genetics. It starts by selecting gentle replacement heifers and allowing only civil, well-behaved heifers into the cow herd. It also means using bulls that have a similar acceptable attitude, which means no rodeo bulls allowed.
As the cows are calved, one needs to acclimate the calves to a human presence.