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  #1  
Old 12/19/08, 04:11 PM
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Sale barn/Bottle calves

Moderators if you would title this as a sticky called "Raising your first bottle calf" I feel that it would be beneficial to homesteaders....Thanks

Hi all, sure hope the follow tips can help prepare you for buying your first bottle calf. Little background, I am currently raising 15-20 calves per year. I started off raising dairy bull calves; once my confidence level rose I shifted to raising dairy heifers. The majority of my calves are purchased from a dairy auction. Enough about me, follow these auction house tips closely, this is the first step in raising a healthy calf..... Good luck,,,,,Topside

The Auction House: Calf Hunting 101

1. Have a paper and pen
2. Have a pre-written healthy calf check-list
3. Don't be intimidated by the sale barn environment
4. You MUST enter the calf pens to inspect the animals
5. Once in the pen use you checklist as a guide and look for the following:
a. brittle dry cord
b. check to see if you’re looking at a heifer or bull calf
c. look into its eyes for brightness/alertness
d. good vision out of both eyes
e. does it walk correctly
f. good broad standard size nose/snout
g. make sure it wants to suck on your hand
h. if it poops the dropping should be mushy, not liquid
i. if it's tail is WET from poop, pick another calf
j. dried poop on tail is ok, clean tail is best
k. rub your hands all over the animal feeling for abnormalities
l. some calves may have a lump on their necks (usually heifers) from farm vaccinations
m. don't buy any calves that are coughing or struggling to stand
n. write down (4) numbers of the calves your interested in buying.

The Auction Begins: Stress Level Rises

1. Stick with your calf numbers or you will be sorry
2. If you ignored my list written above, you will be sorry
3. You will only get what you pay for, bring extra money and spend it.
4. Once you have won the bid and own your first calf, pay up, load up and head out, no delays. Stress is the #1 killer of calves.
5. Buying a cheap calf will only haunt you and end up costing you more in grief and supplies.
6. Only buy one calf. It does not need a friend; you will be its barnyard friend.
7. Don’t let anyone tell you that calf raising is easy, be prepared.

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Old 12/19/08, 04:16 PM
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Hopefully other folks will join in on this thread so that it can become a sticky. Need advice on housing, feeding, vaccinations, common illnesses, castration, disbudding, and of course more....hope you can find the time...topside

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Old 12/19/08, 06:13 PM
 
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Most auctions will not let you check up the animals up close I don't think. We can walk overhead and peer down at the animals but we cannot go up to them and inspect them whatsoever. You just gotta have good eyes and look from 50 feet away

And personally, I think to buy two means at least you have half a chance at having a calf still in 2 weeks. I am pessimistic though as I just had to bury two jersey calves I bought at the auction 10 days ago. I have bought 5 calves at the auction this year and only one lives. The stress is really hard on them.

Btw.. I lost all four to pnemonia. One in February.. One in October and two December. Keep them dry and out of drafts. Buy a fluid feeder that has a tube on it. It is sooo useful as not all calves want to eat when they need to. Heat lamp is a good tool.

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Old 12/19/08, 06:25 PM
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When I visit the sale barn I notice some bull calves sell for $10 while others sell for $60. What a big difference and in my opinion the $10 calves are high risk...Just my opinion.

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Old 12/19/08, 06:37 PM
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I always buy them two at a time, since I keep the young calves seperate from my other cattle for several weeks. They seem to settle right in since they have a buddy with them. I figure the whole weaning/ auction barn/ new home thing is stressful enough...they don't need to be all alone, too!

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Old 12/19/08, 06:41 PM
 
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At ours... Jersey calves go for $2.50-$5 whereas Hoelsteins go for $40-60-- Now for this threads sake... maybe you could elaborate why?

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Old 12/19/08, 06:54 PM
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Here's why, the Holstein is younger than the Jersey.
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Old 12/19/08, 07:02 PM
 
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LittleRedHen
The reason is summed in one word, potential.

Barn sale calves have a lot in common with market shares on the stock market. Cheap market shares and young calves that are cheap are cheap for a reason. If you do not understand why they are cheap, you need to leave both of them alone or you are going to lose money.

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Old 12/19/08, 07:46 PM
 
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Ok this is a 'calf ready' post right? Well we don't buy from the sale barn. We veal a couple of dairy calves every year and these are from local dairy barns. This way we have the ability to talk to the producer and make sure that the calf has sufficient colostrum etc. But sale barn or local barn, the problems could be the same. Before you buy a calf you need a few things in your medicine chest: a rectal thermometer, $12 - $14 bucks at your local drug store, a calf tubing rig, electrolytes, calf bottles, injectable vitamins (like e-sel in my area), banamine or another anti-inflamitory, I keep cow aspirine on hand and also a broad specetrum antibiotic like Excenel. Problem though with an antibiotic is that they are really all geared to different infections and most dairy barns have resistance built up in their herd to one or another. Excenel and another, Nuflor will do respiratory but you should speak to your vet because she/he will know what resistance there is in the dairy barns of the area. We also know that we have coccisidiosis on the farm and so I keep cocci-boluses and also Amprol at hand. Oh and most important, a probiotic if you do have to use an antibiotic; yogort works and 'Fast track' we have found better. Ok what am I missing guys, jump in. Liz

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Old 12/19/08, 07:50 PM
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Calves having a DRY umbilical cord is VERY! important. If it is wet....that very much increases the chance that it will get sick. It is not pretty to deal with a joint-ill calf. Every calf should have its navel saturated with iodine just after birth. (even more important in summer weather) because they quickly absorb any and all bad stuff right into their systems through that pathway.

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Old 12/20/08, 03:51 AM
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The price of day old to week old calves is lowest in February and August. The extreme cold or extreme cold increases the death rate.

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Old 12/20/08, 07:59 AM
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Well, one thing to consider when picking up a bottle calf at an auction is; if you're looking for a female, reconsider. A lot of times a dairy farmer will bring in a "freemartin" Something to look for would be if there are any other bucket calves in the sale barn that looks to be the same age and breed, and if they are numbered, see if the number runs consecutive, (one above or below) that calf's number, it would be a good bet that she was born a twin and her brother is in there with her. (One time I was walking in the pens and overheard the farmer who brought one in that he learned long ago to hold one back till the next week, that way people won't see them together and figure out she may be a freemartin.)

The other tip would be to see if the auction house offers a vaccination shot program. Ours does, and they really promote it. From what I've seen it seems to be a good program, with best interests to raising a healthy animal. Here's a link, http://www.greenvillelivestockauctio...cc-program.asp

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Old 12/20/08, 11:54 AM
 
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Try to buy, if you can, at the farm. Here in NY, they take the Jersey bull calves out back of the barm and shoot them at birth ! Our neighbor is WONDERFUL to me! He raises the calves until they are 3 weeks old, past "dangerous time", sends them home with me with 3 gallons of milk so I can gradually switch them over and charges me $25. I pick the calves up, drive 6 miles and put them in a nicely bedded stall. Have had zero problems. He even comes back when they are old enough and steers and dehorns them...free. After the second round of calves I have INSISTED on grooming his dog every 7 weeks, I have groomed for 34 years. He was very humble, did I mention how nice he is to me!
I realize that I am blessed, BUT ask around!!!!

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Old 12/20/08, 03:48 PM
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Ok here is what I do

I buy everything other people do not buy and I also buy everything you would buy

I buy 15 to 30 at a time ....but this is my 6 year doing this

A sale barn calf and a home bught calf are two totally different animals treated the same way the sale barn will die with a sale barn calf you have hours not days as a farm raised calf you have


I put 5 calves in a pen thats 5 calfs that usually cost me and average of $150 if i raise 3 of the 5 I make lots of money if get lucky and raise 4 of 5 then i really make a lot of money on that pen....I also buy the highest calfs at the sale barn those sell for a average of $400 put them in pen of 5 if I raise all 5 then I really make money on that pen ...

my usual average on the price of calves is $260 a calf thats the price I have in the LIVE CAlFS thats like buying 10 for $250 thats $2500 if I lost 2 then the average is $312

the best time to buy calfs is from October to January during the holidays when nobody wants to feed calfs on Christmas day Thanksgiving or New Years day


I give a shot of 1 cc batamine and 2 cc of LA200 when I put them in my trailer..as most time they have a 6 hour trip before they get to my house

I feed colostrum the first meal home then i feed Milk Replacer for the first 3 days then go to my Jersey Milk gradually

What you have to learn is what you have when you unload form the trailer

who needs what Calfs are like kids they can not tell you only show you they feel bad....I set out there every day for a hour watching the calfs see who is the last to the milk bar if the calfs swap on being last they get a shot

never believe that they will get better believe they will die in the night as they will

the way the coat on a calf lays tells me a lot about whats going on with the calf

A calf that cleans n it own coat does not need anything one that does not will die very fast


A calf when it sucks holds it's head high will be sick soon

A calf that does not meet you at the gate will be sick soon

A calf will die before you can go buy and get back with what you need so have it on hand now.


just my 2 cents


I have 31 on milk right now next week will be down to 20 on milk and be buying more
tjm

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Old 12/20/08, 04:29 PM
 
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myersfarm what kind of calves are you buying? Dairy calves or beef calves, babys or slightly older calves pulled off the cow at the sale barn. Why the extra step of giving them milk replacer then switching to jersy milk?

I agree with how your handling them. There is no time to lose with a baby calf.

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Old 12/20/08, 08:30 PM
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I only raise dairy heifers any dairy breed 7 days old or less last year I think it was 93 calfs I sold 60 at 400 lbs. and still have 33 left will sell in June


stress is the reason I give MR to the calfs the first few feedings the less change I can do the better I am sure most dairys feed calves MR or since most of my calves I buy are holstiens ...holstien milk ..... thats a big jump from MR or Holstien milk to jersey milk ......so I try to give them something they are use to.. then after they settle in they can handle the jersey milk

I also seem to be able count the days after I get them home on day 3 or day 10 you really need to spend some time with the calfs thats when every thing shows up that they might have picked up at the sale barn


tjm

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Old 12/20/08, 08:42 PM
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Question

OK, gentlemen (and ladies?), in your experience is the "tubing" they do on heifer calves at the auction reliable? I asked the auction worker once if he trusts the test, and he looked skeptical. I thought one time my vet told me that the heifers need to be a certian age to be checked to see if they are or are not free martins.
I love this thread as we raise sometimes holstein bull calves and there are some tricks to the trade. Some calves we just can't keep alive, but they are often the ones (as suggested above) that I knew better than to buy in the first place.
When the auction workers check the navel for the veal buyers, are they checking if it is wet or are they checking for hardness/softness? Veal buyers often ask the ring guys to do that around here. I like when the veal buyers don't want the calf as that means lower prices for me
We do have access to the animals ahead of time, so that is nice to scout out obvious problems or good choices.

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Old 12/20/08, 08:47 PM
 
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myersfarm, since you raise only heifers that explains the prices you are having to pay for the calves. My neighbors are in the dairy business. I notice that they raise their calves in individual huts and everyone here groups there calves from what I read. Is there a reason for grouping or individual huts? Additionally, how frequent do you feed the new calves that are on milk and how much milk at each feeding? I have always felt that a hungry calf was a healthy calf and that often calves are killed by kindness as new calf owners want to "treat" their animals to the best and the most. Your thoughts please.

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Old 12/20/08, 09:19 PM
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I will only buy at a place that tubes I trust 100% the tube being right on a calf that does NOT pass... as in a other board only way to check for sure is a blood test.....but if they pass the probe I have never had one that did not pass the vet....not sure they will pass the blood test or if they will breed.... why I also sell at 400 pounds...



I put in pens of 5 because I use Milk bars that have 6 teats and also I have these building
[img][/img]

I feed twice a day at 9 in morning and 8 at night that way they get there bellys full before it gets cold

I feed as much as I can get into them starting at 1 / 2 gallon a day for holstiens or jerseys and crosses get 3 pints a feeding to them...I milk cows and I do not push my cows milk cost me 30 cents a gallon to make so I can feed more they get 64 gallons before I wean on average so $20 to $30 for the milk bill

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Old 12/20/08, 09:31 PM
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Another worthwhile tip I forgot to mention is: purchase some of the last calves off the cattle trailers, they just left their farm and have had little exposure to sale barn sicknesses. Also watch how the owner un-loads the calves, meaning with a kind heart or with no heart....Topside

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Old 12/24/08, 12:19 PM
 
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Great thread here Topside. Evne though we do not buy calves. I will give my penny's worth.
First off like most said have meds on hand before hand. Pencillin, pnuemonia specific injectable, sulfa based drug and a coccidiastat.
If your in a climate that has severe weather changes in temp have good housing. In real cold climate a calf coat does wonders. We use coats even in cold housing inside.
I will add more with time
Bob

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Old 12/29/08, 12:22 PM
 
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Good info Topside. I have another thing to add, as silly as it sounds, make sure you have a bidder's number before the auction starts. Although it would seem obvious a person needs a number, I have seen a lot of folks at auctions bid on and win things and when asked for their number didn't have one. Delays things, the crowd dislikes it and auctioneers absolutely hate it.

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Old 12/29/08, 05:30 PM
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Thanks 65284, I wrote the thread in hopes that it helps someone. If the thread helps only a few owners and calves then it was surely worth the time. You also have a good point, get your bidding number and enjoy the show....Topside

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Old 12/30/08, 11:58 AM
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Good Thread Topside!

I'd like to jump in here as well. Although I don't raise the huge numbers you and Myersfarm produce, I usually raise twenty or so per year and have had pretty good success.

I can't reiterate enough your thoughts on calf selection and the things you mentioned to look for.
Here's my methods:
-pick out the calf(s) that I'm interested in prior to the sale. (if I don't get there in time to preview the calves, I don't buy calves PERIOD!)
-win the bid, load the calves, and head toward the homestead ASAP.
(one note: As I'm loading the calves, I give them all a 3cc shot of Baytril.)

Now, I'd like to add my preventative measures for once the calf is at home and in the pen.

-I don't immediately stick a bottle in their mouth.(as is usually the first thing a new calf buyer does out of sympothy for the begging, crying calf.)
It's important for first time bottle calf raisers to realize the feeding instructions on the MR bag are the volume feeding rate for a healthy, normal sized calf with their feet on the ground good and a clean bill of health. A calf will keep on sucking the bottle until they are completely and totally filled to the brim which most always ends in the scours.
-The first feeding they get is a 1qt bottle of water and electrolytes.
-8 hours later, they get 1-1/2 qts of MR and electrolytes mixed 50/50.
-12 hours later, 1-1/2 qts of MR 75% and electrolytes 25%.
-12 hours later, 1-1/2 qts of MR
(this gradual introduction to MR or fresh cow's milk is only if there is no apparent signs of scours.)
-If I do see signs of scours, I treat it with electrolytes solely. (remember, yesterday the calf got a shot of baytril as a preventative measure against pnuemonia, shipping fever, and scours.)
-Too often, a first time calf raiser goes to the local feedstore only to have someone sell them a bottle of scour boluses (which do have their place) and starts shoving them down the animal's throat.
-Most of the time, what we call scours isn't actually scours. It's just loose bowels and should be treated with liquid replacement.
-The boluses usually contain oxytetracyclene which is a broad spectrum antibiotic and the natural bacteria in the animal's digestive sytem is compromised. (after all, when our children come home from school with diarea or upset stomach we don't start giving them antibiotics until the symtoms persist or we see the need for medical treatment as prescribed from a doctor. We treat them to 7-up or gatorade to keep them from getting dehydrated.)
Remember, if you see liquid out, you need liquid going back in.
-If you even think that the calf's bowels are getting too loose, start feeding them 4 small feedings instead of 2 larger ones. I realize this might be impossible for someone who works a day job but do the best you can to keep the animal hydrated 24/7 without over or under feeding.
-I always keep feed, (sweet grain consisting of oats and corn is my personal choice) water, and hay out to the calf at all times.
-The calf is getting all the fat and protein they need from the MR or fresh milk so I see no need of buying an expensive calf starter right at the start.
-I always separate the water and feed buckets far enough apart that the calf isn't able to dribble feed into their water bucket when switching from one bucket to another.
-I always thoroughly clean the water and feed buckets daily. (all the left over feed, (and there will be a lot of it for the first week or so) gets fed to the chickens.) Wet, nasty feed will sour in the bucket and could help the critter to get sick.
-I do the same with the hay. What doesn't get consumed gets discarded.
-AWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS look for signs of dehydration. ( I like to see the calf with a moist nose and very alert eyes and perky ears)
-a kind of sick, lethergic calf before you leave for work can be a near death unreversible calf when you get home!
-Most generally, after about one to two weeks, a calf that is eating and drinking well becomes another one of the chores and requires very little more than dropping a bottle in it's hanger and coming back to pick it up once it's finished. The first few days are the most critical. Just keep a good eye on them.
-Once a calf is totally cleaning up the amount of feed that would equal 3-4% of their body weight daily and eating hay and drinking water I wein them. This consist of one week of 1/2 the volume of MR and then I go to one week of once a day bottle at 1/2 volume. After this, I quit them cold turkey and turn them into larger pens with like sized calves that have access to water, hay, and minerals free choice.
-I hope this helps and I'm quite certain there are other ways to get the job done. It's just what works for me.

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Old 12/30/08, 01:34 PM
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Super Info Francismilker, hope the mods cut and paste some of this knowledge into a sticky, as a quick reference....Plus anyone else please join in....Topside

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Old 12/30/08, 04:15 PM
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I don't go to an action place to buy my Jersey bull calves, I go to a farmer just a few miles from me and for 40 to 50 bucks I can get a nice healthy already eating grain at 6 days old, and have a wonderful Jersey steer in 2 years well not really 2 years, I like to send them at about 16 months and the steaks are oh soooooo tender, and with over 400 pounds of beef in the freezer at a time, is just fine, with me. I don't buy Holsteins because of their price and also in LESS then a year ready to butcher is just tooo much meat for me, so I will stick to the Jerseys which is sweater to eat then Holstein anyways.

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Old 01/13/09, 08:41 AM
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Bumping this up

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Old 01/13/09, 02:24 PM
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Thanks Roseanna, I sent a PM to Ken regarding a sticky...

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  #29  
Old 01/13/09, 05:25 PM
 
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I don't know from the different shots ya'll give your calves. we've been lucky with ours I guess. We were real careful to keep they're stall clean. The Mrs. made sure to boil the new nipples in a little sugar water before she used them. She uses a little black molasses on her fingers and then the nipples to get them to sucking. We started off with a diluted mr and a taste of molasses and then a bottle with warm water and molasses for the first few days. We also go with several smaller feedings the first few days and by the end of the week we're at twice a day, full mr. We like to handle them a lot when they're little, they seem to be less skittish if we touch or brush them while we feed.

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Old 01/19/09, 02:19 AM
 
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Yep FarmerWilly, that tough Love Stuff, really works for us too. We got lucky on our first Jersey Cross, she lived and looks great now 9 weeks old, i am sure we can improve on the expense side, this was a learning curve lesson. We like the process of seeing them grow , and these heifers are so sweet, don't understand how some people mistreat them at Auctions etc. We are not PETA folks but no reason to abuse these gifts from Heaven, we are entrusted with them for good use . Thanks TopSide for Starting this thread , great info needed .Would like to see some Holistic opinions on treating calves, we mix Western and Herbal ,Homeopathic, -- Slippery elm bark powder with Yogurt has worked well for Scours mixed in the MR-(milk replacer)- we had to give our's a shot as well and probotics which helped our calf's digestion -making them ,"Want to Live", as our Vet stated using Betamine with B-12- helped ours pull out of lethargic conditiion-perked her up - the attention we gave her tamed her as well. I am sure having full time jobs would be difficult, without someone to watch the Calves- its a full time job , if you want to do it right.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Farmerwilly2 View Post
I don't know from the different shots ya'll give your calves. we've been lucky with ours I guess. We were real careful to keep they're stall clean. The Mrs. made sure to boil the new nipples in a little sugar water before she used them. She uses a little black molasses on her fingers and then the nipples to get them to sucking. We started off with a diluted mr and a taste of molasses and then a bottle with warm water and molasses for the first few days. We also go with several smaller feedings the first few days and by the end of the week we're at twice a day, full mr. We like to handle them a lot when they're little, they seem to be less skittish if we touch or brush them while we feed.
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