Preconditioning Calves

Hmmm, you wonder.  Is this what you do after shampooing but before you apply conditioner to the back of your legs?  No, as ranchers we aren’t talking about that kind of “preconditioning”.  And we are talking about baby cows, not the muscles in your legs that cramp up after running up stairs.

So what is preconditioning?  About a month before the baby calves are weaned (separated from their moms when they enter the real world by themselves, a combination of kindergarten and college all at the same time), the calves are given shots.  These vaccines are like shots human babies get.  The calves will get a shot now, and then a booster when they are weaned.

Some of the calves were a little sick and needed an extra shot and some pills.  This is a pilling gun that helps the calves swallow their pills.


Unlike human vaccines, the calves’ vaccine is drawn into a large “gun”.  These vaccine guns hold up to 25 doses.  The needles may look big, but you have to remember, the same tough leather your shoes are made out of, is what that needle needs to poke through.  It takes about a 16 gauge needle for a calf.  (As a diabetic, my needles are much smaller at 33 gauge.)


Sunlight and heat will kill the modified live vaccine, so we made a makeshift cooler out of a bucket, an ice pack, and my sweatshirt.  We were preconditioning at the far place, so this had to do for the time.

While the calves in the chute (big metal and wooden crate that holds them tight), they also get pour-on.  This gun applies the pour-on to the backs of the animals.  The calf will absorb the pour-on through their skin.  This will kill any grubs, worms, or parasites living in the calf.

(I never noticed before how many guns we have: pill gun, pour-on gun, vaccine gun…)



The final step is giving the calves new eartags.  These tags are “Source and Age Verified”.  That means the next owner knows how old the calves are and where they were born.  ReeRee was filling the tagger for me.  (She is only 2 years old.  Think how helpful she will be in another year!)  ReeRee would get out a button, put it on the tagger.  I would make sure the button was on tight and little fingers would place the tag in the holder. 


There our tagger is loaded.



Next step: the calf gets his ear pierced.  Just like my earrings, the tagger puts in a new tag for the calf.



Tagger is empty!

Looking good!  See you in a month Calfy for your booster shot!


Categories: Ranching in the Sandhills | Leave a comment

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