Winter is fast approaching here in the Midwest! This past week, we (and I do mean we this time) have all been busting our tails to get our livestock moved together and prepped for winter. Thankfully, I did have time to take plenty of pics to share with my lovely readers. And Country Boy loves when I talk country so in order to keep him happy we are going to talk cows this week;) Here are the behind the scene workings of preparing cattle for winter at Hickory Hollow Farm!
Preparing Cattle for Winter
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During the summer months the cattle are spread across several pastures. For optimum cattle management you want your cattle herd to have access to as much fresh grass as possible in the summer. This keeps your cost down as the cattle don’t have to be fed additional hay, and grain usage is at a minimum. And the cattle are happy to munch on all that grass. If cows can smile, they definitely are smiling with they see those fresh spring grasses!
For best results cattle each need an acre, so if you have a 5 acre pasture you can have 5 happy cows (or steers or heifers…if you want to get technical)!
Moving Livestock to Winter Pastures
The first step in preparing cattle for winter is moving your cattle to an easy to access field. Ideally, the cattle will be moved off their summer fields to a pasture that has been “resting” during the summer. Since the winter pasture has not been used since the spring, there will be plenty of grass for the cows to happily continue munching on for at least a few weeks. Again you want to keep your costs down by not using hay until you have to use it.
Since the cattle will soon start receiving hay, you no longer have to keep to the 1 acre per cow rule. Obviously, you want the cattle to have plenty of open pasture to move around, but cows are herd animals so they are happy to be all back together.
Corralling Cows and their Calves
It was a little tricky moving the cows this time as they have just all had calves within the last few months. We were working hard to transport them all within the same day so that moms and babies were all back together by nightfall. Here is a short video clip of the happy sounds of everyone calling out to one another as the last load arrives!
Country Boy is very patient not wanting to “stress” his cattle. So typically, he will make a small corral several days beforehand allowing the cows to get used to seeing the gates. Come moving day, we pull in with the truck and trailer and back it up to one side of the corral.
In the corral we dump out grain which is more of a treat and open the other side of the corral. Most of the cows will mosey into the corral wanting to eat the grain. We then close the one side of the corral and begin encouraging them to get into the trailer with more grain in trailer or making the corral smaller and smaller.
Little Red and I are getting better at this whole moving cows around especially when it comes to the calves. Calves weigh about 150 lb versus 800 lb so they are easier to bluff and maneuver!
We only had one cow, Eeyore, that is a bit of a worry wart who wasn’t having any of it this season! She wasn’t going to get in that corral, no way no how. So we later, had to sort out her baby at the winter pasture and bring her calf back to her. And since Country Boy has learned from past experiences, he left a more “calm” cow and her calf with Eeyore as well. Two days later, Eeyore decided to get in the trailer!
Have Plenty of Water Available for Cattle in Winter
As the freezing temperatures hit, a cattleman needs to make sure that the herd will have access to plenty of water. Ideally there is a creek or pond from which the cattle can drink. Again the more they are drinking naturally flowing water, the less your water bill goes up. And don’t get me started on if you have a sneaky cow that likes to turn the water on for themselves…hello $100 water bill!!
But when those freezing temperatures continue for days, the cows will need fresh water. We use these heated de-icer plugs to keep our Rubbermaid water troughs heated. Be careful to keep an eye that the water does not go below the de-icer plug.
Purchase and Store Hay for Cattle in Summer for Winter Months
Hay is just tall grass that has been mowed down and dried in rows. Then the dried grass is rolled into round hale bales. One hale bale typically feeds around 30 head of cattle and costs around $30 in the Midwest.
The best time to purchase hay is in summer. Or if you have baling equipment or access to equipment, bale the hay yourself. Baling your own hay will keep your costs down. And since the goal is to keep the cattle growing throughout the winter, the hay needs to be of the best quality you can find. So if you are doing the work yourself you know what you are feeding your cattle.
Since we are close to 50 head of cattle this winter, Country Boy purchased and traded off work for additional hay this summer. Hay will retain its nutritional value better if it is stored inside. So any hay that cannot be stored out of the weather should be used up first!
A round bale feeder will also be needed to put into the field. Round bales are dropped into the feeder. This keep the hay from getting trampled and wasted before it can be eaten.
Decide When to Breed Cows
Finally, a decision has to be made when to breed cows again. Calves are typically born in the spring or the fall. We have chosen to have our calving season in the fall months. This means that Bubba the Bull II also arrived this week. We specially requested Bubba II again since he is a good-natured bull and his calves were very healthy! Read here all about calving season 2018!
Preparing Cattle For Winter
Hope you enjoyed our country life post this week. Everyone loves cute animal pictures. And I know that some of you all are experienced at farm life and enjoy talking cows too! If you or your kids have any thoughts or questions be sure to comment below!
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