Monday, 16 March 2015

Flat Aggie visits our Manitoba Beef Farm

My name is Ashley Nelson and I am a beef farmer. Along with my husband, Corey, our three children and my mother and father-in-law we breed and raise beef cattle at Austin, Manitoba, Canada. This year we are calving out about 210 commercial Angus/Hereford & Simmental cows. The heifers, which are first time Mommas, started calving January 12 and the cows started the middle of February. In addition to the cows we also grow several different crops including wheat, barley, oats, canola, sunflowers, silage corn, alfalfa and millet. There is also a separate herd of cows that we calve in the fall, usually starting in August. (I will only be talking about our spring calving cows for now) We mostly use Simmental bulls with the odd Hereford or Angus for heifers.

 Here is Flat Aggie pictured with an alfalfa hay bale. Alfalfa is part of our cows diet along with silage corn.

When we start calving it is quite cold here in Manitoba. It is not unusual to have temperatures dip down to -30C (-22F) and even colder with the wind. So it is very important to keep a close eye on the cows we know are close to calving. We have a barn that we fill every night with cows we think are close and then a couple different pens outside with loose housing sheds to block the wind for the rest. With cold temperatures like this the cows need to be checked every couple hours night and day. A calf being born in the extreme cold could mean they freeze their ears and tails or possibly not survive at all.

  Flat Aggie is in the barn with a couple of cows and their calves. We have quite a few maternity pens that we can keep cows and their calves penned separate from other cows and also to assist in the birthing process if necessary. It is important to keep clean, dry bedding in the barn for them.

Checking out some cows outside, you can see in the background one of the loose housing sheds the cows use for shelter from the weather.

The cows depend on us to feed and bed them every morning all winter long. Like I said, they get alfalfa hay with a corn silage ration. We add to the corn silage, vitamins and shredded straw. The vitamins are very important for the cows when it comes to having their calves and looking after them as well. Helps to keep them healthy.

 Flat Aggie just had to check out the silage wagon! This wagon has a scale on it so we can give the cows exactly what they need for feed. I mentioned before that we add vitamins and straw. This wagon also mixes it altogether.

We used this tractor and bale shredder (processor) to feed the cows bales in their feeders and shred straw for them to lay on and stay warm. Can you see where Flat Aggie is?

After the calves are born, they are tagged with dangle tags so that we know which cow they belong to and they are also tagged with an CCIA tag (Canadian Cattle Identification Agency) so that they can be traced back to where they were born after they have left the farm. We also give them needles for vitamins and for common diseases such as Pneumonia, that could make them really sick or cause them to die. 

 Flat Aggie is assisting with the tagging process. We like to use this little calf chute so that the whole process is safer for the baby calves and us as well. Their mommas are VERY protective and can be dangerous.
The blue and green tags are dangle tags and the yellow button looking tags are called CCIA tags. 

Beef calves are mainly used for their meat, eg. hamburger, roasts, steak etc. Meat is not the only piece of the bovine (cattle) that is used. Their skin, brain, fat, hooves/horns, bones, blood, internal organs, milk and manure are all used for many different products. 

Our baby calves will stay with their Momma till about October when they are weaned and are either taken to the Auction Mart or sold directly to a feedlot.

Hope you enjoyed the tour of our farm, we were so glad to host Flat Aggie. I know my oldest two, Tanner and Ali really enjoyed taking him around the farm and teaching him what it was all about.

Have a great day!

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