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Advice for keeping bull separated

Discussion in 'Everything Else Cattle' started by ReluctantFarmer, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. Nov 1, 2018
    ReluctantFarmer

    ReluctantFarmer Chillin' with the herd

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    I've got a herd of 23 cattle. Some older cows, a couple 1-1/2 yo steers, about 6 1-1/2 yo heifers, and a couple of 1-1/2 yo bull calves (didn't turn them into steers last spring). I've got 1 of the bulls picked out to keep.

    So far all the cattle are together, and have been for at least 6 months. So I may have some bred heifers :-( (but that's another post).

    I'd like to separate the bull, so I don't have any more bred heifers right now.

    I've got 3 primary pastures ~10 acres each that share fence lines.

    I've got a little 3 acre pasture that doesn't share a fence with the other pastures.
    I'm thinking about putting the little bull over there, at least for the cold months.

    I don't want him to get lonely and decide to start jumping fences.
    I also don't want to have to deal with any bulls trying to decide who's #1 stud and tearing stuff up.

    What's the best way to keep him separated and maybe with some company? Older cow? Steer? Or by himself?
     
  2. Nov 1, 2018
    farmerjan

    farmerjan True BYH Addict

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    Put the bull with a steer in the little pasture by themselves. If there is electric available, or a solar type charger, I would run a wire around the top and possibly about halfway down to keep them off the fence.
    What happened to the bull that sired these calves? Sold I assume. Problem is, you will breeding him to his 1/2 sisters if you keep the heifers.
    Yes, there could very well be bred heifers.

    Perhaps, as you stated in another post, that you have some working facilities, there is a head chute/gate that you can catch up the animals ? I think that it would be a good thing to get them pregnancy checked so that you will have an idea of due dates. This will enable you to keep a closer watch on them as being heifers, they can have alot of things go wrong and if you have an idea of when to watch closer, you will be able to help to mitigate any problems.
    Don't know your markets out there, but if you are going to sell, the steers and any other bulls you don't want to keep need to be gone now. Prices have fallen here in the last 2 weeks and look to be getting softer. Get them gone and you won't lose too much more, have fewer to feed through the winter. When you are ready to put the bull in with the cows to breed, eat the other steer. You will take a hit of .15 to .30 cents on bulls from the steer prices, but at this point they should be gone.

    If it is at all possible, I would suggest getting all the cows pregnancy checked. And if there are open cows, and they have some very short mouths, then they should be sold. There is no good reason to winter a cow that is aged, and not pregnant. Prices are not great on cull cows, but if you lose one, then you will wish you had sold it even if it wasn't a great price.

    I am assuming that your dad had a vet in the area he used when and if he needed one. Talk to them. If you do not have a "chute" with a head catch, some of the vets have one they can bring and set up. You would need to have some panels to form a corral. Or if not, most large animal vets have a set up at their offices that you could haul the cattle there. PIA but a possibility.

    I am not trying to be dictatorial. Really, just want you to try to get a handle on it so that you don't have a long hard winter, or have more problems that you have trouble handling from 40 miles away.

    We shipped 2 loads of 15 or so feeder calves in the 350 to 600 wt range and am so glad they went a couple of weeks ago. Got more to go but there is a good chance they will get held over until January if prices continue to drop. Things are so iffy and the farm economy is not very good. Dairy farmers are getting record LOW milk prices for the past year, and many have sold out. There is a flood of cull cows so that market is depressed. Hoping that it will improve. Older calves, like yours, will not get any better price wise. get rid of them, get your herd down to where you know what is what, and start from there. You don't want to continue feeding something that will be worth less as it gets older/bigger.
     
  3. Nov 1, 2018
    ReluctantFarmer

    ReluctantFarmer Chillin' with the herd

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    Thank you so much @farmerjan what you said makes a lot of sense. I was hesitant about spending the money to preg check, but it sounds like it would be a good investment, especially to get a baseline on what I’ve got.
     
  4. Nov 2, 2018
    greybeard

    greybeard Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    I suspect very much what you really have is 23 cattle including some older bred cows, a couple 1-1/2 yo steers, about 6 1-1/2 yo bred heifers, and a couple of 1-1/2 yo bull calves.

    But yes, Jan's advise is pretty sound at this stage of the game.

    What, is your goal with this herd?
    Strictly commercial (selling off all the calves each year)
    Expand it by retaining heifers?
    Sell it all off?

    "Some older cows"
    How old is 'older'?
    Might be a good time to consider culling (selling) anything that is broke mouth or short mouth.
     
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  5. Nov 2, 2018
    ReluctantFarmer

    ReluctantFarmer Chillin' with the herd

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    @greybeard based on @farmerjan advise, Ive got a vet coming next Friday to preg check the females. All the boys are going to the sale tomorrow.

    Don’t know exactly what my goal is just yet. #1 goal is no lost or dead animals. We need something to eat the grass so I was thinking about keeping 5-6 of the older cows that have already given birth before. We got two cow-calf pair. One with a little bull that is getting castrated next Friday when the vet is out here (his name is “steaks”, he will be tasty :) ). The other is a 2 month old heifer. Who knows, she may be the future of the herd? We were thinking of maybe renting a bull, or see if we get a nice one out of the calves that most likely have in the oven.
     
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  6. Nov 2, 2018
    greybeard

    greybeard Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    If I read things right, you have about 33 usable acres for your present herd.
    You won't be expanding numbers too much due to available acreage and prudent stocking rate.
    I am not familiar with your part of Missouri, but am somewhat familiar with NE Ok and NW Ark.
    You'll want about 2-3 acres of grass for every pair (momma cow with calf). A breeding bull counts as a pair where I live. 2 yearling steers is a pair. A heavy bred cow will eat nearly as much as a lactating momma too.
    Managed right tho, with good rotation, you can beat that '2 1/2-3 acres per pair' rule of thumb, the wild card being rainfall. In winter, feeding only hay and as little supplement as absolutely necessary, you'll need about 800...maybe 1000 lbs of hay per cow per month of winter.
    Good luck with it.
     
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  7. Nov 2, 2018
    farmerjan

    farmerjan True BYH Addict

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    Thank you for not getting upset with me "telling you what you ought to do". Since this has gotten thrust on you, I am really only trying to help you get a handle on it so that you can be successful. As you said, the 1st goal is no dead animals. Getting them preg checked, and know the status on them is good to get a start.
    The vet can "mouth" them and give you some "lessons" on that, not hard, so you know what you are looking at. This will give you some knowledge on their ages. Also, he will be able to give you a decent idea of "how pregnant" they are so you know when to expect calves. Keeping the older experienced cows is wise. They can do their "thing" with little muss or fuss.
    When he castrates the bull calf, make sure you get him to give both calves a "blackleg" shot. The wet this past year has made the clostridium bacteria more prevalant. Regardless, it is CHEAP insurance that they don't get blackleg and you lose a calf. The cow's immune system, and subsequent milk will provide protection for 6-10 weeks from blackleg, so giving a shot at day old will not do much; but as they get older they can get it and die from it. It is in the environment so not like it is something they will avoid by not being exposed to other cattle. We never had any problem with it for years, and then one year lost 2 calves in a week and found out that was what it was. Something to ask the vet about too. It can be given if you get the calves in to castrate/band at 2-3 months or whenever you get them up to work them. Heifers and bulls/steers should get the shot.
    There are other vaccinations that can be given... that is individual preference.
    I would also encourage a LEPTO shot for the cows that are confirmed pregnant and that you keep. Helps to prevent abortion and it also more prevalant it seems in wetter years. Dogs, foxes, coyotes all mammals carry it and the cows can pick it up from the water where they drink, wet grass. Again, a "cheap insurance" shot. It is also a "killed virus" vaccine and will not cause the cows any problems. Cows can get a blackleg shot and the immunity will be passed on to the calves as extra insurance and it won't hurt either. The calves will still need a shot after about 2 months old.
    Is this vet the one your dad regularly/routinely used? If so, he should have a bit of an idea of what your dad did/didn't do. We do not do near as many vaccinations as some people, but blackleg and lepto are standard.

    Also possibly worm any that you are keeping if they are thinner or rough coated so they go into the winter with a "clean" gut tract. We do not routinely worm our cattle unless they "look like they need it". We also try to weed out and sell any that seem to be "poor doers" or get wormy regularly, or have little milk and raise smaller or scrawny calves.

    If you keep, say the older cows that are bred. Then they have calves and then when the youngest is 30 days old, you need to have a bull ready to go in to breed them. It helps to get the calves born closer together, all in the same time frame. Makes the "calving season" easier to control. Gives you calves that are more uniform in size to sell. One thing to think of, is when do you want them to be calving? They carry 9 months m/l. So a march 1st due date means the bull needs to go in around the first of June. Decide when you want the calves. Maybe May works better for you, then pull all the calves to sell in January, give the cows a couple of months and start calving again in May; bull goes in august....
    Again, more things to talk to the vet about.

    Yes, if there is a reputable breeder/neighbor that you can rent a bull from, that is the way I would go in the beginning. Remember, the bull is 1/2 your calves. You don't want some scrub bull to "just get them pregnant". You want as good a bull as you can afford or can rent. Some areas there are bulls available, some areas not so readily available. Again, ask the vet, or a neighbor. Some farms will buy and share a bull if they only have 10-30 cows each. We rent a couple here to small farmers of 10-20 cows. A bull is a big expense for only a few cows. $1500 to 3500 is a decent price to pay. Not very practical for a 10-15 cow herd. He also will get the job done and possibly get bored and want to go looking for other girlfriends.... not all, but some will. You are living too far away to have to go bull chasing. So a rented one for 2-3 months would be good.
    Hope I haven't overwhelmed you... @greybeard has a few more years and experience than I do so he is also a good one for advice. I tend to "talk too much".
     
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  8. Nov 2, 2018
    ReluctantFarmer

    ReluctantFarmer Chillin' with the herd

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    Thank you so much for your advice @greybeard and @farmerjan, you both answered questions I had, but hadn’t posted yet :). We’ve been worried about blackleg, my grandfather also raises cattle in this area and two people he knows have lost calves this year due to blackleg. I was also looking at trying to figure out if I had enough hay to get me through. I’ve got 15 bales right now (we had to feed hay in the dry August this year, and the bales are a tad light). Looks like I better be getting some more.
     
  9. Nov 2, 2018
    greybeard

    greybeard Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    Yes, and asap. The farther into the cool/cold season you wait, the less likely you will find any at a decent price.
     
  10. Nov 3, 2018
    farmerjan

    farmerjan True BYH Addict

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    If your grandfather is in the area and has cattle, then providing that you are on speaking terms (LOL) he will be a source of lots of information and advice. You don't have to take it all, but listen to it all. Ask the vet.
    As for the hay. Don't know your winter weather there as compared to the Blue ridge Mtn area here in Va..... but a good rule of thumb is approx 1, 5x5 roll of hay for 20 cows per day, or for 1 cow for 20 days. Naturally it will depend on the weather conditions, temperatures and such. Dry cold will be easier on them than cold wet rain at 35*... snow will have them eating more to maintain their body heat and weight. Sometimes supplementing with some grain at 2-3 lbs will stretch your hay by providing them with protein. Corn is low protein but does help create energy (heat) in the cold weather.

    Is there an extension agent there in your area? Many times they have "pasture walks" seminars and such. Often are free or costs like $10 for an evening program with a supper meal. Get in touch with them and see. That is something you might be able to do evenings after work.

    I think getting rid of the steers and bulls, or even all the calves at this point, then getting the cows preg ckd, is your best bet, then go from there. The number you keep will determine how much hay you need. Better to have more than you need than not enough. If the weather gets cold and nasty, and the winter drags, it will be hard to find and prices will rise. You can store it, even outside, and there will be some loss, but you can feed 2 yr old hay. They will pick through it and there will be some waste, but if you can get more than you need now, it will be there. Then if the winter drags as ours did this past year, you will not be scrambling for hay. And you can feed it next winter, in the colder weather and they will pick through it and can use the outside waste hay for bedding on the cold ground.

    Since you mentioned the loss of some calves to blackleg locally, give all the preg cows a blackleg shot to boost their immune system and it will transfer to the calves. Blackleg and lepto are both cheap, killed virus vaccines. INSURANCE against loss.