When a new calf seems chilled or a little slow finding its grub, we sometimes opt to intervene and move the cow-calf pair to the barn and out of the elements so we can assist them better.
Packing a new calf even 100 yards to the barn can wear a person’s arms out quickly (and unnecessarily, I might add), so over the years we’ve relied on different calf-packing systems to make the task of getting a baby calf to the barn quickly as well as safely. A mother cow’s instinct is to be protective of her new calf and in so doing, it can make helping a cow and her new calf dangerous sometimes.
What we’ve found safest, easiest, and quickest, is to put the calf between us and the cow by placing the calf in some form of transportation behind us. It allows the cow to smell her baby and she is more likely to follow when there’s nothing to distract her from focusing on her baby. Most of the time a cow will follow us right into the barn. Doing it this way gets the pair to the barn faster and we’re a lot safer should the cow get aggressive.
I’m kind of dating ourselves here, but I took this photo back in 1995.
Notice we were still using a three-wheeler! This is a little cart my husband and father-in-law used to use to get a calf to the barn.
We currently have three different options for hauling a calf. The calf “sled,” (the first photo) which my husband welded and we covered with old denim jeans. It hooks onto a 4-wheeler ball hitch by a cable, giving us a little distance from the pair. We use bungee cords to “seatbelt” the baby calf in, should it decide to get squirly and try to climb out or tip the sled over.
Another option is my husband’s slide-out calf-packer which kind of looks like a luggage rack. He welded a pull-out rack and attached old car seatbelting to plop the calf into so it holds the critter above the ground. This works really good when we feel timing is critical.
There have been times when we had several pairs to turn out of the barn and didn’t the headache of taking each pair out individually because calves act kind of resistant and don’t always head in the direction we want them to. A lot of times we end up pushing them to get them out the gate and it can be wearisome if there are several pairs to let out, so we bought an ice fisherman’s sled to haul several calves at once. This has a limited success rate, as we have more trouble keeping the spunkier calves to lay in the sled even with bungee cord seatbelts over them. Before we get to the gate we usually have at least one calf that’s managed to stand up and/or crawl out.
Every outfit has their own system of getting a calf packed to the barn and I always enjoy exchanging ideas with others so I’m sharing some of the different ways we’ve done it.