Preconditioning Calves

Every fall we precondition the calves.  Just like humans, cattle need vaccinations to protect them from respiratory disease.  Preconditioning also helps to prepare calves for weaning by increasing their resistance to diseases and decreasing overall sickness and death loss.

Cousin T built an alley for calf preconditioning.  8-9 calves fit in the alley and the shot givers walk along and administer vaccinations.  There is a top on the alley to prevent the calves from jumping on each other.  Last winter, Cousin T put the alley on wheels!

The day starts early with gathering pairs.  Next, we sort cows from calves.  We run the calves through the alley and turn everyone back together.  Last, we return the cattle back to pasture.

This year J decided to precondition early; we usually do it mid September.  J wanted to pull the bulls off the cows while we had the cattle gathered.  He also wanted to get the shots in the calves earlier, so they had more time to build immunity in their system.

We had a crew of 6-7 people.  Two people working the back bringing calves up the alley and two shot givers.  J’s Dad opens the gate to let the calves out of the alley and keeps a count.  I am the chalker.  After the calves get both shots I put a chalk mark on them.  We like to do this just in case there is an accident.  Sometimes a syringe gets broken or the cattle get mixed up.  With a chalk mark we know who has been worked and who has not.

When all is said and done we eat a delicious dinner and enjoy a visit with the neighbors.


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22 Responses to Preconditioning Calves

  1. Stevie says:

    It feels so good when vaccs are done! We have goats and in fall and spring everyone gets a good hoof trim, shots, and sprinkled with DE. We are sweaty and stinky (from the bucks!) but our main goal is to make sure the pregnant does have their shots so they can pass on that immunity to the kids when they are born. But it’s so nice to head inside and know that chore is done for a while. Not like there won’t be a new chore tomorrow…. 🙂

    • Robyn says:

      It takes a lot of prep work to vaccinate cattle. Setting up to work cattle, getting the crew lined up, buying vaccine and cooking. On top of all that we hope for a nice day! It’s a necessary part of our business and we are glad when it is behind us.

      I bet it takes a little time to trim hooves. You are right, vaccinations are so important for health and immunity.

  2. Janis says:

    Us City slickers don’t realize how much work is involved in keeping and raising cattle….thanks for the photos and info!

    • Robyn says:

      Carol and Janis,
      I am glad you enjoy following along with our rural life and cattle business. Feel free to ask any questions that you might have.

  3. Carol says:

    Great post ~ and photos ~ love hearing and seeing about your rural life ~ (A Creative Harbor)

  4. Tanya says:

    you’ve been a busy little thing!

    • Robyn says:

      Tanya, it has been busy. We started chopping corn this week. Tuesday I got a pot roast and the trimmings ready for Wednesday’s dinner. I have also been taking sandwiches out to the guys for supper. Between the town job and helping at home it keeps me on my feet.

  5. Heather says:

    I love preconditioning! Maybe it’s because that means that fall is here which is my favorite time of year. Maybe it’s because I think it’s fun to see how all our babies are doing! We always weigh each of the calves in addition to vaccinating. Do you ship some calves in the fall or hold everything over?

    • Robyn says:

      Hi Heather. Fall seems to be the favorite season on our ranch. The crisp mornings and slightly relaxed mood is welcome with open arms.

      The last few years we have backgrounded our calves and run them as yearlings. With the drought we might need to change our marketing plan a bit.

  6. sounds like a pretty busy day!

  7. That’s a lot of shots to give! I do my 3 horses and our dog, but I give them their vaccines each April.

  8. Pat says:

    Love your posts and photos!

  9. Buttons says:

    Lots of work eh? We are rounding up about twenty stockers to sell this weekend we do not have enough hay. We lent the bull out to a brother that has hay. So is the life of a farm girl right Robyn keep smiling even though you don’t want to:)
    I am glad I took so many photos. I am pretty sure when we find a market for springers we will be selling a bunch of them too:( Darn drought. Take care Robyn. B

  10. Karen says:

    Wow, I know absolutely nothing about cattle ranching. This was a very interesting post and I love the photos to go with it!

  11. Hello Robyn,
    Thank you for sharing this post. I have helped to hold animals for vaccines before, but I hadn’t ever thought about how much planning would have to go into an operation like a cattle ranch. Whew. Sounds like you are a great team and were rewarded well with a great dinner.

  12. Nancy says:

    Such a great post for those of us who don’t know very much about raising cattle. I wouldn’t mind being the chalker. Do you ever draw smiley faces on them? Prolly not. 🙂

    • Robyn says:

      No faces, Nancy. Just a quick mark as I walk down the alley.

      Last fall J and I were walking through the weaned calves and saw one with a chalk mark. We thought it looked funny and that the calf must have gotten in with the neighbors. We figured the neighbors marked the calf that was not theirs. We scratched our heads trying to remember if we got a call last fall about mixed up cattle.

      A few hours later J had a light bulb moment and realized that WE put the chalk on the calf when we preconditioned. lol!

  13. Teresa says:

    What a lot of work, but I’m sure it pays off. Of course, the gathering at the end of the day sounds best!

  14. Kim,USA says:

    I love rural or country life. There is no boring moment in there. ^_^


  15. Sandy says:

    I love reading your posts because as a rancher’s wife, I do understand. I don’t get to go help out as often as I would like because I am employed outside the home. I love to go ride and help when I am able. Hopefully in about 5 years, I will be able to go with my husband full time. He and his dad work together and employ two full time hands. They work 6 days a week and often 7 during the busy times of the year. It is a hard job but we love our life.

    • Robyn says:

      Glad you stopped in, Sandy! I understand about working in town and not being able to help as often and I would like. I am very lucky to have two bosses that have Ag backgrounds and are very understanding when I need to help at home.

  16. I’m going to guess that the calves really don’t like to be confined!

    Deadly Fence

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