Where to get calves?

AmandaS.

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I am looking for information on where to get baby calves for free or little for nothing. I am wanting to bottle feed and raise a herd but not sure where to start. Any information would be helpful. Thank you.
 

farmerjan

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First off, please add your location to your avatar, so we know "from whence you come".... Seriously, different areas have different possibilities.... and some have NO possibilities.
Holsteins are very cheap now. There are fewer kill plants that take them and they take longer to grow and finish. Still, they are decent meat.
Jersey bull calves are a dime a dozen here. Most are $5-$10 at best. They also take longer than a beef breed, but they are very good meat.
What are you wanting to do/have??? a milk cow for yourself, some beef in the freezer???? What have you got for facilities? What experience do you have????

I am NOT trying to discourage you......BUT... realize that to bottle feed a calf, with a good quality milk replacer, is a money losing proposition. Good ALL MILK, milk replacer is in the $60-80 a 50 lb bag. DO NOT USE SOY BASED MILK REPLACER. NEVER, EVER. A calf cannot properly utilize the soy protein, and they will do poorly, if they survive. So you would be behind the 8 ball to start. You will also be feeding a good quality calf starter feed from about 2 weeks, as they learn to eat, and then switch to a grower feed. They will be eating 2% of their body weight by weaning. So a calf at 200 lbs at 8 weeks will be eating 4 lbs feed a day, plus some real good quality hay. Growing calves/ or any "babies" , need the best feed or they will get pot bellied and not grow or develop and then you will be feeding longer, so cutting corners will only cost you as much or more in the long run.

Please define what you want... a herd of what? For what purpose, where you are etc.. Then maybe someone can help you better.
 

AmandaS.

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Thank you, you answered my question as I was just wondering if it would be cheaper to raise a calf or buy a full-grown cow, I think I will buy a mom and her calf where I live and start from there. My goal is to have both milk cow and meat in my freezer.
 

farmerjan

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It will be cheaper to buy a cow, preferably with a calf or an older cow that is pregnant. Don't start with a bred heifer because they are "new to the game" and if you are new, it could be a difficult adjustment. Plus, if a heifer is having problems, you might not know what to do,or when to intervene. Always easier to start with an older experienced cow, so that she can just go about her business. Not to say that cows never have problems; but it is less likely to happen.

Great to see where you are from.... except that I am a LOOOOOONG way away so not much help to find available stuff. If you can find a dairy that has something other than a holstein.... like a jersey, jersey/hol cross, or something else, and is maybe just not productive enough for the farm, that is a good way to go. Too bad you aren't close here. I am a milk tester and one farm that I test has a bunch of jerseys and he wants to get out of them. Some milk really good, some so-so.... they would be great for a "family cow". You breed them to an angus bull, get a half beef calf, and they make good freezer beef. The heifer calves from a cross like that can be bred back to an angus, and the resulting calf will be beefier with still having a little more "milk" in the genetics so will raise a nice calf. I have several half and quarter jersey/angus. The calves are not too big, and they milk good so the calves get fat and sassy. They will not do as good as an angus at the stockyard... but for freezer beef they are fine.

Good luck with finding a cow. If at all possible, get 2 so that they have company. Their little calf is not as much company... kinda like a mom and wanting some adult conversation every now and then. Even getting a cow and a yearling would be good. If one doesn't work out, by that time, the calf would be older, or you might find another that is more to your liking, so you can "trade off" and eat the one that doesn't work out.

Jersey beef is very good, well marbled if fed decent, and a tad little bit "sweeter" tasting. That's basically all I eat. I have a jersey steer calf that is about 10 months.... he will go to the processor the end of 2020 at about 2 yrs old. I mostly grass raise, with a little bit of grain the last 60 days.... like only 2 lbs every other day.... so definitely not grain finished. It does teach them to come in the pen to catch easily.....
 

cjc

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I have done exactly what you are trying to do. I bought 20 bottle calves and raised them up on a bottle. Farmerjan is right...it will not in the end save you money. Especially if you raise them the way I believe they should be raised.

In my 20 I had 14 heifers. Of those 14, 6 of them want on to have calves. The others I sold. I have paid $0 - $400 for a bottle calf. I got the majority of them at 3 days old. A good bottle calf will sell for at minimum $200 around here. And that is still a dairy cross. I have got a few shorthorns, angus, etc., those ones cost more, and typically are a bottle calf due to a rough circumstance. Orphan, born sick, born small. rejected, etc.

The best thing to do when looking for calves like this is connect with a calf raiser. Someone who has access to dairies and a lot of unwanted calves. Where I am a lot of our dairies breed their Holsteins to an Angus bull. I went and grabbed the ones that had the least amount of white on them. I aimed for jet black because in the end I am trying to get a black calf.

When you say you want to raise a herd I assume you want to breed with these bottle calves that you raise up? If that's the case you need to be leary of a few things. Some dairies will breed to a beef breed purely because they don't want the calf. Others will do it with only their cows that they don't want the offspring from. For example a bad udder. Some of my cows have a less than ideal udder for milking, so, the farmer choice not to continue their mothers genetics. Some of them also will have deeper genetic issues causing the farmer not to want to keep their offspring, another thing to consider if you plan to keep these calves.

If you want to just raise a calf for beef or pet then jersey bull calves or Holstein bull calves if not free or close to it. You could knock on any dairies door and ask if they had any. Or, you could go to auction and grab what comes through.

Now with all the good and bad I just shared I will say that doing this was the best thing I ever did for my herd. It gave me 6 amazing breeding cows. And I don't mean they are spitting out award winning calves. They are calm, gentle, well mannered cows because I hand raised them. Being a small time farmer I don't have time to deal with a crazy cow. This allowed me to build a herd I can trust.
 
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