Mason County News
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Hereford Nanny
Wednesday, February 8, 2012 • Posted February 8, 2012

After retiring and moving here in 2007, my first load of feeder calves was brought in by J Livestock. The calves had already been vaccinated, cut and tagged, which meant, a lot less work for me. They suggested I feed and keep the calves in the pen for about 3 days. After doing so, I opened the gate and the wild bunch disappeared. Hmmm. Slowly, after 4 days, they finally came back for water and eventually got use to me.During that time, I read an article by Becky Mills, in the Progressive Farmer January 2011 edition about keeping back a steer as a nanny. In the article, Josh Gunn says “It is important to keep stress to a minimum from a health standpoint. The less agitated they are, the better the vaccines will work.” Texas AgriLife Extension livestock specialist Ron Gill agrees. “Stress changes the cortisol level and depresses the immune system. Anything that raises the adrenalin level depresses immunity. Prolonged stress leads to an increased incidence of respiratory illnesses and viral infections.”The article continues: To head off the stress chain reaction, especially in freshly weaned calves, Gunn puts one of his lead steers-an older, calm permanent resident of the farm-in the pen before the cattle arrive. “That helps take the stress off when the calves first get here”. Gunn says. “They adopt that animal as their new mother.”Well, I’m here to tell you it works. After J Livestock came and picked up the first group of feeder calves, I kept back a Hereford steer we named Curly. It was tough for him when everyone left, but he didn’t understand his reprieve. He would hang along the fence at times close to the neighbors herd. This year, after a few blessed rain showers, J Livestock called and asked if I was ready for some more calves. Curly was put in the pen, the young calves were dropped off and I watched the magic happen. I walked into the pen with hay and cubes, Curly came walking over and the calves followed. The next day I fed them and by the afternoon I let them out. None of the steers left the pen, until Curly lead them out and he has brought them back into the pen every day. I’m sold! Curly is a permanent lead steer-nanny.I suggest if you’re raising feeder calves and would like less stress on the calves and less headaches for yourself, get yourself a lead steer nanny. (My preference is a Hereford)

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