Posted in Ranching

Preg Testing

It’s nearing the end of November, and winter and cold is creeping up on us.  All cows are home from the mountains, and it is now time to get ready for winter. A few weeks ago, we preg tested the first bunch of cows that made it home from the mountains; this week we preg tested the second bunch (the local vet does the preg testing). Preg testing is when the cows are checked to see if they are pregnant. Yesterday, we preg tested all the first calvers (cows having their first calves). These calves turn two in the middle of the winter so, yes, they are still quite young. The first calvers will not only be raising a calf, but are also still growing themselves. Most of the first calvers will have their calves somewhere between the end of January and February.  The other cows will have their calves somewhere between February and March although a few late calvers don’t calve until April.

When preg testing, if a cow is “open” (not pregnant), the cow will be sold. Late calvers will also be sold, (cows that don’t have their calves until after the middle of April).

Another thing the vet does is he takes a blood sample of each cow and sends it to a lab.  The lab checks to see if any cow has a disease that we have be very careful about called Brucellosis.  Our greatest risk of cows catching the disease is through the infected elk.

How could the cows catch Brucellosis from the elk? Well, Brucellosis can cause a cow elk to abort her baby if she has the disease. A curious cow may go up and sniff the placenta or an aborted fetus and contract the disease that way.

If one cow gets Brucellosis, it can spread through the rest of the herd and that would be a disaster. Another thing we would have to worry about is the fact that humans could also catch the disease if handling a cows placenta or assisting in a calf’s birth. In humans, it is called Undulant Fever.  So, if handling a cow, you have to be very cautious. The one good side of Brucellosis is it does not affect the meat, so if a cow tests positive to the disease, the cow will still eventually go to slaughter. The state veterinary office will do a series of tests. The goal is to get the infected cow out of the herd.

There is a way, though, to help prevent Brucellosis. Our cattle are given a vaccination called bangs that helps fight the disease if the cow comes in contact with it.  The shot has to be given by a certified vet. The cow will also get a tattoo in her ear to show she has gotten the bangs vaccination. Cows who get the vaccination will get it before they are a year old. Thank the Lord, none of Silver Spring Ranch cows have been found positive to Brucellosis.

Do all are cows need tested? All animals sexually intact (bulls, cows, heifers intended for breeding). Cows that don’t need tested are like steers (castrated male calves) and heifers that are for slaughter and not breeding.

I think that is all the information I could give you now on Brucellosis. Preg testing went well and we are ready for calving season beginning the end of January; so, there’s still a few months until then. I will keep everybody posted when calving season does begin. 🙂 God Bless!


Posted in Ranching

Ranch Chores

Hello everybody! The other evening, I went and helped dad with chores. Chores on Silver Spring Ranch are done twice a day, at seven in the morning, and at four thirty in the late afternoon. Morning chores consist of feeding horses, some cows by our barn, and the calves in the feedlot.  The horses and cows by the barn are fed hay, and the calves in the feedlot are fed hay topped off with pellets.  Each calf gets about eight to nine pounds of grain a day (not including the hay). In the evening, just the feedlot calves need to be fed.

How is feeding the calves in the feedlot done? A ranch worker, Fernando, goes through first with a tractor and hay feeder, feeding the calves hay.  Next, grandpa and dad come through feeding pellets. The calves eat the pellets right on top of the hay.

Why feed the calves pellets? Grandpa’s plan is to feed the calves in the feedlot for a month and than sell them. From our feedlot, the calves will head to another feedlot, and from there head to slaughter. The pellets help the calves gain weight; they also have different minerals in the pellets that are healthy for the calves.

When dad and grandpa feed every morning and night, they always keep an eye on the calves to make sure everything is healthy; if there is one that doesn’t come up to eat with the others, they always check them out to make sure they’re feeling okay. For the past week, dad and grandpa have been dealing with a calf that bloats when he eats pellets.  The calf will eat too many pellets and his gut will fill with air.  There are two different kinds of bloat a calf can have, dry bloat and wet bloat.  Dry bloat is when a calf’s gut fills with air.  Wet bloat is when his gut fills with foam that holds in air pockets. Wet bloat is different to get rid of than dry bloat. In our case it was dry bloat. To get rid of dry bloat we had to take the calf to a chute, being careful not to run him; making him run could result in too much stress on his heart.  You can make your own outcome but, it wouldn’t be very good. Dad took a plastic tube and stuck it down the calf’s throat, into  his rumen; air came flowing out of the tube. You would not believe how amazingly that calf’s huge belly shrunk!  Dad also gave him some pills to make his belly feel better. The pills were like tums for calves. He will probably be back to normal in the next day or two, but he will never be able to have a diet with pellets in it because obviously, he would bloat. So, grandpa won’t be able to sell him to a feedlot.

If a calf had wet bloat, how would you get rid of it? The first step would be to get the bloated calf in a chute. Just like dry bloat, you need to be careful not to put too much stress on the calf (like making them run or squeezing the chute when they’re in it). As I have said earlier in the post, wet bloat is when the calf’s belly is filled with foam and air. The foam holds the air in different pockets, making it harder to get the air out of the calf’s gut. The calf is given a substance called “Therabloat.”  “Therabloat” is a soapy kind of substance that gets bubbly and breaks the surface tension of the foam in the gut, making it easier to get the air out of the calf. But, lucky for us, our case was just a dry bloat.

And yes, the calf is doing just fine now.  But, he can only eat hay because of the pellets causing bloat. I hope you were able to have some understanding, through this post, of how to cure a bloating calf. 🙂

Thanks for reading and God Bless!