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Do I Have to Give Calf Starter?

Discussion in 'Birthing, Weaning, and Raising Calves' started by MyFather'sSheep, Feb 25, 2019.

  1. Feb 25, 2019
    MyFather'sSheep

    MyFather'sSheep Ridin' The Range

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    We aim to do things as naturally as possible when we can. We have a bottle fed Holstein and are wondering when to wean her. She is 9 weeks old, gets two bottles a day, hay, alfalfa/timothy pellets, and pasture for a few hours each day. Does she need calf starter? When will her rumen develop if she is not on grain since the 3 month mark is based on them eating calf starter? I read the rumen will be deveoped enough after 21 days on grain, but what is the metric for straight forage? Has anyone tried this? Thanks
     
  2. Feb 25, 2019
    Wehner Homestead

    Wehner Homestead Herd Master

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    I don’t totally understand what you are asking but from experience, this is what we do...bottles every 4-6 hrs until two weeks them we drop back to 8 hrs (with increased volume as their stomachs grow.) We usually keep them on three times a day (I know the bag says otherwise but ours do better...just saying.) After the three week mark, we provide hay and small amounts of feed for their consumption. When they can actually process it seems to vary. I’ve seen three day old calves nibble on hay but I know that it’s more curiosity and play. We continue to give at least two bottles a day through four months, if not six. I realize that not everyone does this. We calve in Feb/March and wean in Aug/Sept depending on the weather.

    I’ve seen way too many bottle calves end up with pot bellies from improper feeding. Ours don’t. This is just my experience and you can do what you feel is best.
     
  3. Feb 26, 2019
    rosti

    rosti Overrun with beasties

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  4. Feb 26, 2019
    MyFather'sSheep

    MyFather'sSheep Ridin' The Range

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  5. Feb 27, 2019
    greybeard

    greybeard Herd Master

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    Not much bottle or dairy experience here.
    Beef breeds.
    I've raised a ton of them on just momma's milk and straight to forage.
    I have sometimes used pelltized creep feed just to kick their daily rog up, but usually not.
    I try to wean by weight, not time.
     
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  6. Feb 28, 2019
    rosti

    rosti Overrun with beasties

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    I wean when I get sick of dealing with them, LOL. Usually 3-6 months old.
     
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  7. May 9, 2019
    WyndSyrin

    WyndSyrin Overrun with beasties

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    I have raised now 3 bottle calves and I can say from my limited experience that I have weaned my three at 7 months, 6 months and 5 months. My oldest calf was weaned at 7 months and the next was at 6 months and finally my little heifer calf was recently weaned at 5 months. However, with my heifer calf she had been with my older steer that was my first bottle calf and she was learning from him what it means to be a cow, so she had a very big advantage over Murray-my oldest calf.

    but to answer the O.P. you don't really "Have to" give calf starter. I tried that route and did not see much difference. Where I found the best results was with my Heifer and Murray. She was eating close to 3% of her body weight a day in a mixture of 1/3 corn, 1/3 soybean hulls, and 1/3 gluten with molasses mixed in. hope this helps you out
     
  8. May 10, 2019
    OneFineAcre

    OneFineAcre Herd Master

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    We give calf starter to our goat kids and to some of our does on milk test if they start to get a little thin.