Better weather this winter eases calving stress

On the Farm: The next generation receives hands-on experience as members carry on a family tradition of raising cattle

WESTLOCK, Alta. — Scott and Wendy Letts have their home farm on the original Letts family homestead northwest of Westlock, Alta., near the Pembina River.

Family have been on this farm for more than 100 years, and cattle have been part of the farm all along.

Scott and Wendy raise more than 200 head of purebred Simmental cows, plus some commercial cows.

Their calving season begins shortly after Christmas and this year, Wendy says it has been a real blessing with little snow so far, and relatively mild weather. It’s easier on the cattle, easier on the feed, and easier on them as well.

While the youngest of their children are school age, some of the older ones are part of the operation today, which makes it much smoother to move and sort cattle, prepare for calving and get feed ready for the next winter.

Members of the Letts family walk a group of bred Simmental cows from a pasture-winter feeding area to the home farm to sort and hold back any cows that appear close to calving. | Les Dunford photo

On Jan. 7, a couple of their children were moving a group of cows from a pasture south of the home farm and calving area, where Scott carries out a visual check.

He scans each cow, checking udder and vulva areas, and those he deems closer to calving are held back.

As the cows move past him, he calls out to one of his sons to either hold a cow, or let it through.

Once the sorting is done, the cows that are deemed to calve a little later are leisurely walked back to the pasture, with the two riders trailing them, just as they did when the cows were brought in an hour earlier.

The cows are familiar with moving back and forth and need very little urging to return to the holding area for checking. For them, it’s like a nice afternoon walk in the sunshine. | Les Dunford photo

The older cows lead the way and the younger ones follow.

It looks simple, but years of practice make it run smoothly.

The next generation are being encouraged to learn from Scott and Wendy and carry on the Letts family tradition of raising cattle.

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