Is my calf too scrawny?

vezult

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So, I'm fairly new to raising cattle. We got a calf from a friend.

The calf is a guernsey/jersey cross, and is roughly 5 months old. It seems healthy enough - eating grass, grain, drinking water, running, walking. No limp, no scours.
We were hoping to be able to butcher it in the fall, at around 8 months. I know that's early, but we don't really have the facilities or freezer space to butcher something larger, and I'm not interested in paying someone else to do it.

As far as I can tell, it's OK...but it looks scrawney :) Being ignorant, I really don't know what's reasonable to expect. I *think* it should have plenty of grass to eat...though he seems fairly choosey. I'm expanding his pasture bit by bit. I've been feeding roughly 6 lbs of grain daily, in two feedings. I've not been feeding all that much hay, assuming he has plenty of grass forage.

I don't know how much he weighs, and all guidance re: feeding grain seems to be weight based. I feel as if I'm just purely guessing on that. I don't have a scale, and am sure he wouldn't let me measure his girth or anything like that.

Any advice? Am I am doing OK? Doing something stupid? Does he look fine for his age?

Attached some pictures.
 

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farmerjan

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He looks fine for his age and BREED. There is the catch. There won't be enough of him to butcher at 8 months. Any dairy breed will grow before they put on muscle/meat. And jerseys and Guernseys are the 2 dairy breeds that will just always look smaller. The only way I would kill a jersey cross at 8 months is if it has been on the cow the whole time and it has "milk fat" body because it is getting more than enough to eat.
We kill our jerseys and jer x at 26-28 months. They will weigh approx 8-900 average although I have had some hit as much as 1100. Figure you will get little more than 1/4 of the live weight back in meat from a mature animal. Less than that from an immature animal. There will be way more bone to meat ratio in a jersey that is under 15 months. Just the way dairy cross animals grow compared to beef animals. Understand that I have been eating jersey and jer x for over 40 years. But they have to hit a certain stage in their growth before they actually start to put meat on their bones.
 

vezult

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Thanks, farmerjan! That's good to know.
 

farmerjan

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Glad I could help although I don't have a magic wand that says.....8 months, put on meat so that the owners can process before the dead of winter" !!!! LOL. I love the jersey and jersey x animals for meat. They have a little bit of a "sweeter" taste and the meat is very fine grain so makes a very nice beef to eat. They just take more time to get to what most consider slaughter weight. I don't want you to be disappointed at the amount of meat to bone at the younger age. Like the difference between cornish x chickens and your average layer breeds. Beef animals (cornish x) put on both size and meat and the dairy animals (like average laying breeds) grow more body first, then put on the pounds and they will seldom ever get that "round roly poly build".
You know that a deer gets to a mature stage with average weight at 150-200 lbs.... and will have a decent meat to bone ratio. A dairy animal (jerseys and such) needs to be 800-1,000 to have a good meat to bone ratio. Holsteins need to be in the 1200 and up to have good meat to bone ratio.
Stick around and keep us informed. We like new members that can become old friends.
 

Ridgetop

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It is too bad when you got your calf that you didn't keep it on a bottle and keep feeding milk or replacer. Like farmerJan said the milk would have put on fat and some meat. Actually that "scrawny" look is what dairy animals look like. A thickly muscled fat dairy animal is likely not giving any milk nor will her calves. You can try increasing his grain by mixing in extra corn - corn will put on some fat, and beet pulp heavily watered and soaked might help.

However like Farmerjan says, it is the BREED, not the feeding regimen that is keeping him from putting on muscle like a beef calf. If you do butcher him at 8 month old be prepared for him to yield far less than 40% meat. There will not be much in the way of steaks and roasts, but if he has been eating for free on pasture, and you got him for free, the only expense will be the butcher fee, cut and wrap. At least he will be meat n the freezer. Next time if you pan to raise the calf without a supply of milk, choose one with a beef parent. Dairy people usually use Angus bulls on their heifers since the birth weight is smaller and easier on a first time calver. If you can find a Jersey Angus cross the calf will still be small but the beef X might help it put on more meat.
 

vezult

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It is too bad when you got your calf that you didn't keep it on a bottle and keep feeding milk or replacer. Like farmerJan said the milk would have put on fat and some meat. Actually that "scrawny" look is what dairy animals look like. A thickly muscled fat dairy animal is likely not giving any milk nor will her calves. You can try increasing his grain by mixing in extra corn - corn will put on some fat, and beet pulp heavily watered and soaked might help.

I did feed it a whole bag of milk replacer. I'm not too worried about the fat - we normally eat venison :)

However like Farmerjan says, it is the BREED, not the feeding regimen that is keeping him from putting on muscle like a beef calf. If you do butcher him at 8 month old be prepared for him to yield far less than 40% meat. There will not be much in the way of steaks and roasts, but if he has been eating for free on pasture, and you got him for free, the only expense will be the butcher fee, cut and wrap. At least he will be meat n the freezer.

Yeah, this is somewhat of an experiment, to dip my toes in the water a bit. I didn't get it for free, but buying feed is by far going to be my biggest expense. I'll be butchering it myself, so I don't have to pay that either :)

So, knowing this now, it sounds as if it might be more cost effective to spend more on the initial purchase to get a beef breed, particularly if I plan to butcher it early.
 

Ridgetop

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Do you have a lot of dairy cattle in your area? If so, just make sure that the next dairy cross you buy is half beef. Farmerjan likes Jersey crosses for their flavor so find a Jersey X Angus cross. You may have trouble finding a beef breed for sale young since a lot of the beef people keep them till they are older to put on pasture. But definitely you will know to find one with more beef in its background.
 

Ridgetop

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Feed is always the most expensive part of raising beef if you are trying to finish it out (fatten it) on grain.
 
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