Raising Kids and Cattle – It's all about choices.

January 02, 2017

farm kid

What do raising kids and cows have in common? Choices – and lots of them. My husband and I have two young children, so the choices around raising them (sleep training, feeding options, daycares and pediatricians) seem never ending.

And believe it or not, we make a lot of choices when it comes to raising our beef cattle, too.

For example, several years ago we made a choice about birthing our calves. We decided to switch our herd to one calving season in the spring, instead of having separate herds that give birth in the fall and spring. We feel we are better suited to handle the potential of cold, muddy weather in the spring than issues with pests, such as flies, that you have to handle in the summer months. We aim for a calving start date of March 1, to hopefully miss the severe winter weather.

As housing choices go, we have facilities available for cows to calve indoors if we expect bad weather, but we prefer for cows to calve outdoors. If you think about a preschool classroom full of toddlers, they touch and share everything – including germs. This is the same for calves. If they are outside, they are much less likely to share germs and tend to be healthier. Calves are very resilient animals, and as long as they get dried off right after birth, they are equipped with warm coats to handle a Midwest winter. We also make sure the cows have access to wind breaks, and we unroll bales of grass or cornstalks to give the cows a dry place to lie down.

Routine health checks, not just for kids. For cattle, too!

We work to keep our herd healthy in a number of ways:

  • Cows and calves get vaccinated on a schedule to prevent illness.
  • In the summer, we keep pastures mowed to prevent eye injuries and risk of infections like pink eye.
  • Nutrition is a key component to healthy animals, and we make sure the dietary needs of our cows are met by providing salt and mineral supplements throughout the year.

If an animal does get sick, we work directly with our veterinarian to establish a course of action. If an antibiotic is needed, we follow all labeled directions to make sure the animal becomes healthy again and to reduce the chance of antibiotic resistance. We want to do everything possible to make sure effective medicine is available not only for our cows, but for our kids. Responsible antibiotic use is key.

Regardless of whether an antibiotic is used during the life of an animal, all meat you purchase is antibiotic free. Strict regulations ensure any residue has been metabolized through an animal’s system before it enters the food system.

The choices a farmer has when raising cattle are nearly as endless as a parent’s when raising children. The important thing to remember is farmers care deeply about the well-being of their livestock and making responsible choices. The meat we raise not only feeds your family, but ours as well.

Megan Dwyer

Megan lives on the farm where her dad grew up with her husband and two children, Nathan and Hailey. They actively work with both of their family’s farms in Coal Valley and Geneseo, but Megan and her husband both have off farm jobs, too. They raise their own cows and hope to someday farm full time.

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