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THOUGHT About Raising a Bottle Calf....

Discussion in 'Birthing, Weaning, and Raising Calves' started by drdoolittle, Aug 9, 2019.

  1. Aug 9, 2019
    drdoolittle

    drdoolittle Loving the herd life

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    Hi all! We have many animals here at our mini farm.....40+ chickens, 5 barn cats, 4 pot belly pigs, 2 ND wethers, a miniature horse and will soon be bringing home a former pony- ride pony. We also have indoor pets.....7 dogs, 7 cats, 2 lovebirds and 3 cages of African Soft Fur rats and mice....
    Almost all of these animals are rescues. It's just something I've been involved in since I was a young child.
    Well, it's always been a dream of mine to rescue a cow or calf. I know what happens to most bull calves almost immediately following birth.....off to the sale barn.
    Just this week I found an ad by a farmer an hour or two from me...."Newborn Bull Calf. If not sold today, will go to tge sale barn tomorrow." Of course, my heart dropped thinking of that poor tiny baby, defenseless, ripped away from his momma....I contacted the farmer, but the baby was already gone. The farmer said he would have more.....I got a text this morning saying he has a calf for me. I'm guessing it was born overnight.
    After reading some of the posts here, I'm questioning whether I have the ability to care for a newbirn calf! I've bottle-raised many other types of animals....goats, pigs, kittens, raccoons, squirrels....and hand raised 2 sets of wild baby birds. I figured I could easily raise this calf.....and keep him as a pet, training him to pull a cart/wagon, etc...
    Am I insane to even consider this?? I really respect opinions by others who have experience with cows/calves....by the way, he is a holstein and I'd band him immediately.
     
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  2. Aug 9, 2019
    farmerjan

    farmerjan Herd Master

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    Okay, you want to rescue a calf. That's all well and good. He can be trained to be an ox, and pull a cart or wagon. There are many in New England that are used as oxen (usually in pairs) for pulling contests.
    No matter what, all dairy calves are "ripped away from their momma's". You can't milk a cow on a dairy and have calves running all over nursing. Plus, a dairy cow will produce way too much milk for a calf, so he can get scours and die. Often dairy cows have little or no maternal instincts. There is nothing cruel about taking a dairy calf away from the cow and bottle raising it. Read how many on here take their kids away from the goats and bottle raise them.

    Do you have any idea of what a full grown cow/steer eats? And a holstein on top of that? As an adult, you are looking at 1-2 square bales of hay a day AT LEAST. Holsteins are big framed. It will take ALOT to get him grown. At the very least it will take at least 1 bag of milk replacer for 6+ weeks.... that's feeding 2x a day 1 bottle each time. That's $60-75 for a bag of real milk, milk replacer as the soy substitute kind is not healthy. At 2-3 weeks, you are going to be starting with a calf starter feed, that you will increase til he is eating 2-3 lbs a day by weaning at somewhere in the 6-10 week age. You will have over $150 in a 10 week old calf. Then it is good quality hay, usually 2nd cutting orchard grass that is not too stemmy, plus calf grower. If you feed 3-4% of the body weight, you will be up to 4-8 lbs a day quickly. Holsteins have to have good quality feed or their bones and muscles, tendons, and ligaments will not develop properly. By the time the calf is 6-8 months, you will be up to 1/2-1 bale hay a day. You are going to have to figure it will cost $2 a day to get him to yearling size. So by the time he is 1 yr old you will have nearly $800 in him. How much pasture do you have for him to graze? We figure it takes at least 1 1/2 to 2 acres per head to keep a beef cow in the summer. Holsteins will need all of that or more. We rotational graze to have more and better grass. Then there is all the hay for winter. Plus grain as holsteins do not do as well as a beef animal on an all forage (hay) diet in the winter. Say you get by with only $1.50 per day costs after he hits 2 yrs old. It is not a cheap thing. We figure it costs an average of $550 a year to "keep " a beef cow. She has a calf yearly and we might break even on her total upkeep costs.

    Also housing. He will need at very least, a run in shelter that he can get in out of the wind and weather. They don't take the cold as well as a beef animal, unless they are being fed a high energy feed so their bodies can convert that to heat.
    Farms that have holsteins usually feed corn silage. A good producing holstein cow will consume up to 100 lbs of roughage/feed a day. Granted, this steer won't be making milk.... but 50 lbs a day in winter would be a minimum.

    Teaching an animal to be a beast of burden, pull a cart, whatever, takes alot of time, and some simple equipment. They don't do as good with a typical harness but better with a yoke. You can't put a "bit" in their mouth like a horse but they have been able to be trained to a harness. The yoke just works better. Once they are trained for it, they need to be worked REGULARLY or they will not be responsive. You can't just decide to do it 3 times in the summer and let them go for months. They need consistency.......

    Yes, most holstein bull calves do go to sales/stockyards. Many are put in veal barns and raised up to 2-400 lbs. Many are also killed as babies for baby food veal. Some are bought by people who need a calf to go on a cow that has lost her calf, or to be grafted on a nurse cow that will be feeding several at a time.

    If you are going to "save a calf" make it an animal that you will get milk from, or something that you will eat down the road as beef. I have had cows with great dispositions and personalities, and have buried a few over the years due to old age. But the practicalities of life are that they are here for a purpose, and they will best serve you in that purpose. I knew several farmers that had trained oxen, and when one got to old or injured or something to work, they would turn them into hamburger. It was a way to honor the animal by not wasting what was provided for the farmer. And these are people that used these animals daily in their lives for 10-15 years.
     
  3. Aug 9, 2019
    Baymule

    Baymule Herd Master

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    Expensive pet. @farmerjan, don't Holstein oxen get to about 2,000 pounds?
     
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  4. Aug 9, 2019
    farmerjan

    farmerjan Herd Master

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    Yeah, at least. I have known pairs of oxen to top 5-6,000 lbs. No joke. Had a farmer just recently ship an older holstein COW that they couldn't get bred back. She weighed 2230. Most of our beef bulls will hit 18-2200 lbs at maturity... and an oxen will keep gaining until it is 7 or 8 yrs at least. So an average 2000 lbs at 4 or 5 is about right.
     
  5. Aug 9, 2019
    drdoolittle

    drdoolittle Loving the herd life

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    Thank you! I ultimately decided against getting any calf at this time. I knew I'd possibly be bottle feeding along with feeding calf grower until he was around 5 months (that's what another member had told someone). That along with how much hay a full-size cow requires were factors. Then the fact that I have a pony coming towards the end of next month and that we are busy right now setting up a new coop/runs for our chickens made me realize I don't have the time to devote to training/caring for a calf.
    It is obviously an impractical dream that will probably never come about. More than likely, next spring or the spring after I will start looking for a MINIATURE cow breed to purchase as a pet.
     
  6. Aug 10, 2019
    farmerjan

    farmerjan Herd Master

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    I am glad that you were able to see through the dream to some practicalities. I was not trying to be negative. I just wanted to make sure that you had a grasp on the actual day to day realities of a full size animal, especially a holstein. My son and I raise cattle. I have done the bottle feeding and all for years. There is alot to it and if we didn't have other full time jobs, there is no way to justify it in this day and age.
    One other thing to think about. Even a miniature in the cattle world is still a 5-800 lb animal. They still will require a fair amount of feed. And the mini's come with other health related issues. I think you are doing a service by taking in some animals that don't have a good life now. The best in the future.
     
  7. Aug 10, 2019
    drdoolittle

    drdoolittle Loving the herd life

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    Thank you!! I completely APPRECIATED your frankness and expertise! It was a romantic dream....if I had no othe animals, or maybe just a dog, I would get a calf to raise as a pet. But the expense and care of that one animal full-grown would end up taking too much away from the animals I have now...
     
  8. Aug 13, 2019 at 11:57 PM
    rosti

    rosti Overrun with beasties

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    @farmerjan How much do your square bales of hay weigh? I assume they are a bit smaller than mine...
     
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  9. Aug 14, 2019 at 12:00 PM
    farmerjan

    farmerjan Herd Master

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    It depends on whether it is straight orchard grass, second cutting, or some we do is first cutting, or mixed pasture grass. We set the cranks on the baler accordingly.... but they will run 45-60 lbs. We try to average 50 lbs. One of our rolls of hay , 5x5, or 5x6, will rebale into about 22-24 square bales. They weigh in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1200 lbs. We have rebaled a few over they years when stored inside and someone needed square bales but try not to do it too often. So, 20 square bales at 50 lbs equals 1,000 lbs.
    Most standard sq bales in this area are in the 50 lb range.
    All I know is that as I get older and the knee and ankle hurt more, after about 10 they seem to weigh 100 lbs each...LOL

    But we have weighed them over the years and try to get them around 50 lbs. I used to buy square bales when I was a kid in Ct. and my father would take the pickup and haul them home, and they weighed in the 65 to 80 lb. range. At one time they were 2 wire bales as opposed to the string bales we have now. Mostly all timothy.
     
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  10. Aug 14, 2019 at 12:18 PM
    rosti

    rosti Overrun with beasties

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    Okay. Our alfalfa bales are 115+ pounds, grass is typically about 90, and then others have those 1,000+ pound bales. I was just thinking that our Angus cows aren't eating 2 square bales a day, LOL.
     
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