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Down the cow path

Published: Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 2:28 p.m. CDT

Never since the dust bowls and chinch bugs of the late 1930s have farmers wished so hard for a year to be over with! My wife and I, however, were very blessed this past season as we received just enough rain to make an average corn crop and an above-average bean crop. Our pastures also took the dry weather in stride, and our cows are still grazing in late November with very little hay to supplement them.

Weaning the calves “by the moon” went very well again this year. After a day and a half, all was quiet, and the calves were eating hay and gaining weight all day long. I think the cows were ready to be without their calves too, as they headed back to the pasture after two days.

In Mid-November we took the calves to market and were very pleased; they averaged only one pound less than last year but brought $0.08 a pound more. The sale we took the calves to was a CAB or Certified Angus Beef sale, and all calves had to be weaned at least 30 days and had to have had two rounds of shots. (Not unlike taking the kids to get their immunization shots). The buyers were strong bidders as they could be more assured of healthier calves with less stress on the calves. Calves that have been back grounded in this way or “pre-conditioned” will almost always bring more money to the seller. It is well worth the time and money spent by the seller to have his calves “ready to grow” for the cattle feeder who buys them. We are seeing fewer and fewer calves brought to the sale barn “green” or just weaned and no shots. These type of calves are potential “train wrecks” for the buyer, and nobody wants to spend a lot of money on calves that could get sick easier and be slow gainers.

Just last weekend we brought the cows back in to pregnancy check them, and we were very happy to have only two open cows out of 34. The yearling bulls really did well considering the hot weather we had all summer. Selling the open and late bred cows will occur in December or January, and we will also be trying to buy replacement cows during this same time. Late bred cows mean they were bred but are a trimester behind the rest of the herd. We will try to buy replacement cows bred closer to calving with our other cows. Pregnancy checking went fairly well with only about four stubborn cows at the end. We are trying to implement what we can of Temple Grandin’s advice in reducing stress on the cows, so yelling and screaming are out, and we use more gates to move the cows along the way we want them to go. Not all the cows read Temple’s books, so a few had to be pushed along more than others! All the fertilizer and anhydrous ammonia got applied to our fields, and we got all of our tillage work done before Thanksgiving. We even had time and weather to get a little re-working of water ways done.

December and January are approaching which means delivering grain and “going to meetings” season is here. It also means the holiday season! Hope everyone has a merry and joyful Christmas and New Year. Remember the blessings the Lord has presented to us and be thankful for the birth of His Son, also for us. Here’s hoping you celebrate the holidays with BEEF!

Larry Magnuson of Magnuson Farms raises cattle south of Tiskilwa and is on the Illinois Beef Board.

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