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 youre 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. Dont let anyone tell you that calf raising is easy, be prepared.
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
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.
Last edited by LittleRedHen; 12/19/08 at 06:17 PM.
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!
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.
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
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.
Cows may not be smarter than People, but some cows are smarter than some people.
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
A good dog may be hard to find, ...but a hard dog usually means it's been dead for a while
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!!!!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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