Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Questions- Bottle Calves

 On my post New Arrivals, PP asked

"Thanks. I have never found beef for as cheap as you figure it. How soon will he be weaned?"

My reply got a little long winded, so I thought I'd start a new post instead.

No, you can't judge the price of beef by my figures here.  This is just this one calf, a by-product of the dairy industry.  Cheap to buy.  Some people, like me, buy them and raise them for personal use.  Most go to slaughter between birth and three months, depending on their weight. 

Beef calves stay with their mothers at least 6 months.  Then it depends on the farmer.  Some people separate them when the mothers are rebred.  Some separate them before the new calves are born.  Some live in the same pasture- bulls, cows, and calves of all ages - until they go to market.  The mothers will wean this year's calves before next year's calves are born.

A beef calf is the end product.  So from birth they have a higher value.  The farmer has invested the past year into breeding the cow, maintaining her health, feeding her, rotating pastures, fencing, etc, to develop a healthy calf.  He's worth more in terms of labour, as well as the quality of meat he will eventually become.

Dairy farms breed to keep the cow in milk.  Milk is the end product.  The calves are taken from their mothers within a day or two.  Heifer calves may be kept or sold to replace stock.  Bull calves are a by-product.  They're cheap because they aren't wanted.  They're in the way.  Their bone structure is different than a beef calf.  Longer legs, slimmer hips and chest.  They'll never get as big, and supposedly, they won't taste the same.  They're bottle fed until they'll eat grain. 

One bag of milk replacer is supposed to be enough to get three calves to weaning.

We weaned Nelly after two bags of milk replacer, at about 4 months old.  She didn't like the grains.  She started eating grass at about three weeks.  Calves have weird multi stomachs.  They need to develop good bacteria in all of them to process their feed.  One stomach will overflow into the next, which will make them sick if the bacteria haven't developed yet.

We fed Nelly all the time.  Every three hours at first, and gradually fed her more at a time, less often.  We didn't follow the directions on the bag, nor the methods used by most in the industry.  Milk replacer is not designed like human formula.  It's designed to bulk up those by-product calves for slaughter, not to raise them into adulthood.  It's not designed to grow those good bacteria and develop the stomachs.  The calves are no longer considered veal once they start eating grass.  So we played with it, and we got Nelly through the process.  We'll attempt the same method with Toothless.  I expect to use two bags of formula, but it will depend entirely on his development, when he starts grazing, how much grass he eats, how much water he drinks, when he seems ready to lose the bottle.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks. I was thinking you were talking about the price of beef in your area and saying that is what the beef would cost per pound if bought. You weren't, I assume. You were talking about the price the beef cost you to raise. Right? That is all very interesting about having the little calves that are taken from their mother so we can have milk. The other article about the scours and such and the yogurt cure. I think my hens will get yogurt next time they are acting puny.

    Milk replacement: How big is that bag? I was thinking maybe a gallon to get a calf through one day. Obviously not!

    I suppose all this should not make a difference to me since I will never raise a calf, I hope! 3 a.m. feedings are not for me. I just find all this extremely interesting.

    The calf eating grass sounds good to me...she is making Omega3 for your health.