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Most veterinarians agree, weaning is the most stressful life event for young cattle. Ours were born this spring and moved out to pasture this summer. Aside from the occasional blizzard, their lives have been easy-peasyDSCN7060

To wean, we round up the herd and lead them home. They follow the truck because John throws a bit of (yummy) hay out occasionally. I trail on the 4-wheeler to keep the lollygagers from lollygaging.  DSCN7064

After we sort the two groups, the farm gets pretty noisy with moo-ing! We are aware of the stress that the calves are going through, so we do our absolute best to make them as comfortable as possible. Stress can weaken their immune system and cause them to become sick. There are two reasons the calves are stressed:

  1. They are no longer able to drink Mom’s milk.
  2. They are in a new environment.

It is important for the cows to stop giving the calves milk because winter is coming. Lactating cows require more feed to keep a constant body weight. Removing the calves may seem harsh, but it is for the health benefit of both animals. Now, the cows are back out on the pasture. They can begin to gain weight and prepare for winter.

John feeds the calves twice a day. To mimic the grass in the pasture we feed long stem hay.DSCN7072

And, a mix of corn and pellets. The mix provides additional calories, protein and helps meet each calf’s nutritional requirements. DSCN7073

After getting the calves out of the pasture we weighed them and gave a dose of de-wormer. The calves weigh about 500 pounds now (about 75-85 at birth). Going forward, they will gain about 2-2.5 pounds a day. The calves’ weight is a measure of our success as caretakers, we want the calves to have a high weaning weight, because this means they got plenty of nutrients – from grass in the pasture and milk from mom.DSCN7056

The calves are nervous in the new environment at first, we watch them carefully. During chores, John makes sure they all come up to the feed bunk to eat. The calves also have to find the water tank and learn to drink from it. DSCN7075

We put a radio near the pen so there is constant noise during the first few nights. If it is really quiet and then truck drives down the road, the calves could get spooked. They might all run and push down a fence! The radio keeps them calm (statistics show no measurable difference among station selection, Miley Cyrus and George Strait will both do the trick). IMG_0017_1-1

Signs of sickness (caused by the stress) include: coughing, weazing, droopy ears, laying down instead of eating. It is easy to spot one who is getting sick. Healthy calves have clear eyes, clear snot and they are eating often or walking to water. So far, all of our calves are healthy (and hungry).DSCN7071

Good weaning methods can make this time much less stressful on the calves–keeping them healthy and growing. Now, we just keep a close eye on the calves to monitor their health.





  1. Eva

    I enjoyed reading about the weaning of the calves Sierra. Since I am not a farm girl just a rural girl, I never knew how that was done! We only had a cow to raise to butcher so this is so enjoyable to read and also makes me really appreciate our farmers! So much hard work!

    • Sierra Shea

      Thank you Eva! It is an interesting time of year and quite a process. I am glad you enjoyed reading it. We noticed one calf this morning who might not be feeling well, so tonight we will give him a vaccination if he still looks sluggish and sick.

  2. Beth

    Have you ever considered writing children’s books? You have such a wonderful way with words, I’ll be sharing this with my niece and nephew when we wean our calves!!

    • Sierra Shea

      Not really, I have never thought of that. I do love kids books thought, some of my happiest memories are reading before bed with my Mom and sisters! 🙂

      Thanks!!! I should be thinkin’ on this idea!


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Hey, I’m Sierra Shea! I am so glad you are here. 

Where do I start with writing to introduce this blog? At the beginning, I suppose: I’ve been writing on various platforms online since 2013. I started blogging shortly after moving to South Dakota.

I am a mother and a maker at heart. I’m so grateful to be married to John and mother of three: Joslyn, J.D. and Jesse.

I am a self-taught decorator and designer. I am a brand new shepherdess and a Spiritual Director.

I love living in South Dakota, even though the winters & the wind can be a near-daily struggle.

Blogging is a grounding force in my life and it helps get me out of my head, unstuck and moving in the directions I always hoped I’d be going!