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  #1  
Old 07/13/09, 08:47 PM
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Calves on grain

Just wondering what age/weight a calf that is on grain could be switched to an all grass/hay diet....I will want to finish them on grain when they are older but would like to keep down the $$ I put into them now. Any advice would be appreciated.

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Old 07/13/09, 09:19 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

You can start to change them when you want to, but you have to do it slowly over time.

The rumen has to change the way it works, from grain to forage. This will also apply to the end when you convert them back to grain.

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Old 07/14/09, 07:56 AM
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I've had that same question in the back of my head as I'm just starting to wean my bottle calves. From what I have read the rumen should be fully developed by 3 months. So in my way of thinking, I'll be graining until 3 months of age at a minimum.

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Old 07/14/09, 10:47 AM
 
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yet another one who doesn't know and needs an answer to this question.

I *think* I read that Momma Cow would let them nurse until they were much older than we let them nurse as bottle calves so we have to leave them on the high protein calf starter until 5 or 6 months to make up for the protein they are not getting from the milk Momma Cow would still be letting them have.

Is this so? Cuz if I don't need to keep them on the calf starter that long I'd surely like to know~ with 4 calves taking 2 pounds in the morning and 2 pounds in the evening feedings I'm going through about 150 pounds of calf starter a week. Cheaper and EASIER than Milk Replacer.......but definitely not cheap!

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Old 07/14/09, 06:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LibertyWool View Post
I've had that same question in the back of my head as I'm just starting to wean my bottle calves. From what I have read the rumen should be fully developed by 3 months. So in my way of thinking, I'll be graining until 3 months of age at a minimum.
That is not what I meant. There are bugs in the rumen that digest food. A cow's rumen will either develop bugs to digest grains or forage based on what is being fed.

When you change feed, you have to do it slowly so a new pouplation of bugs can develope in the gut. This applies to feeding at any age.
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Old 07/14/09, 08:33 PM
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LW, you can continue to grain them after weaning and/or after they've reached 3 months of age. The amount you grain them depends on you just as long as you don't over do it; whether you have them on hay or grass and wish to just keep giving them grain is fine. But like trav said, don't switch too fast otherwise you'll have some sick calves on your hands.

Cheryl, the amount of milk the momma gives depends on two or three things: her condition and forage availability and/or her milking ability. For thin cows, calves need to be supplemented with creep feed. Same if you have drought conditions. And again for those cows who are poor milkers and don't give the needed amount to their calves. Calves on thier mommas are commonly weaned at 5 or 6 months, sometimes 7. I'm not sure about comparison of protein content in calf starter versus milk from momma, but I'm gambling on the fact that it could be the same. But I could be wrong.

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Old 07/15/09, 06:11 AM
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travlnusa,

I was not disagreeing with you. I totally understand about switching feed in ruminates (I've raised sheep for many years and we change feeds depending on the season and the ewes needs). I interpreted MountainValleys question differently than you. To me the question was at what age/weight can a calf be put on an all grass diet. For me that can not be until the rumen is fully developed. In my understanding, if the rumen is not fully developed, the calf does not have the carrying capacity to be on an all forage diet and therefore we feed either MR or concentrates along with forage to supply the calf's needed nutrients. The grain and forage help to stimulate the develop the rumen.


Karin L, I agree that you could grain a cow every day of it's life if you wanted. But if you are trying to minimize input cost like Cheryl and me, is 3 months the minimum age that you would switch from a grain and forage diet to an all forage diet assuming the forage is high quality? It almost sounds like you are saying that you could stop at weaning, but that seems too young to me for a bottle raised calf.

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Old 07/15/09, 07:49 AM
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MV, also welcome to the forum. Here's what I do: My calves are continuously feed some grain from birth to butcher. My logic is to feed them just enough to aid in quicker growing. After one year most are ready for the freezer without pounding grains into them at the tail end of life. Keep in mind they are not being fed much so the cost overall seems to equal out. Here's one of my boys, he's only 11 months old and has been fed relatively small amounts of grains throughout his lifetime...Just a thought,,,Topside

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  #9  
Old 07/15/09, 09:17 AM
 
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Grains~
Are you using calf starter pellets, another mix, or actual grain? And when you say a relatively small amount~ I put 8 pounds of calf starter out morning and evening for my four 3 month olds to share. It doesn't look like enough......and they clean it up in about 20 min between the four of them. But 4 pounds of calf starter a day each ads up in a hurry to 3 bags a week at $10 a bag......so I've been hoping they are getting enough forage from the pasture (much scrubbier, more bushes and trees than you have in the pic).

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Old 07/15/09, 01:18 PM
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Cheryl, just guessing I'd say one steer eats (3-10 months old) 4 pounds of feed per day. Around the 10 months and older I boost it up a bit mainly because they will be heading to the slaughterhouse around 12 -14 months old. I buy bulk 18% dairy ration for 13.50 per 100. Ask your feed mill about ways to say you some money, such as re-using bags, fill drums or trash cans. You get the idea....Topside

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  #11  
Old 07/15/09, 02:04 PM
 
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thanks. The calf starter they are on is 20% protein. I heard from someone else that he get a deal at the co-op buying in bulk and bringing his own containers in on sweet feed. I know sweet feed does not have enough protein for the calves~ but if I can figure out where my local farmers co-op is maybe I can find a cattle or dairy ration with enough protein to work for a better price. Thanks for the info. Cattle look so easy when you see so many of them standing in so many pastures apparently taking care of themselves........lots more work and worry than I imagined though!

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Old 07/15/09, 03:05 PM
 
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I feed a calf creep feed that is 12% protein and they seem to do well on that and it's fairly cheap for a feed. You might ask your feed dealer about it, I know feed dealers sell feed a lot cheaper that buying at someplace like Tractor Supply or another box store.
P.J.

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  #13  
Old 07/15/09, 07:11 PM
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We keep them on grain but lower the % as they go. Start with 18% till around 300 pounds then down to 16. Go to 14 at around a year.
We buy 500 pounds a time at the feed mill. Much cheaper than buying 50 lb bags anywhere.
From some of the things I have read, if I was to quit grain altogether, I would wait till 6 months.

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Old 07/15/09, 07:35 PM
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PJ, all my livestock eat the same thing. Goats on the stand, feeder calves, milk cow, freezer steer, etc....KISS=Keep it Simple/Sane

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Old 07/15/09, 08:35 PM
 
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That would make it easier. My Mother-in-law visited last weekend and wanted to help me feed. She watched me feed the calves, the baby turkeys, the adult turkeys, the baby chickens, the adult chickens, and the goats from six different bags in the garage........then I went to the other side of the garage for the dog food and the cat food. She asked me how I knew what to feed to which animal......well......I know which bag I opened and where I put it so I just know........

Well what do you do if someone else wants to help you?

No one helps me feed..............

Well what will you do if you get sick........

Get up and feed each type of animal from the right type of bag myself I suppose.

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Old 07/15/09, 09:35 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Cheryl aka JM View Post
That would make it easier. My Mother-in-law visited last weekend and wanted to help me feed. She watched me feed the calves, the baby turkeys, the adult turkeys, the baby chickens, the adult chickens, and the goats from six different bags in the garage........then I went to the other side of the garage for the dog food and the cat food. She asked me how I knew what to feed to which animal......well......I know which bag I opened and where I put it so I just know........

Well what do you do if someone else wants to help you?

No one helps me feed..............

Well what will you do if you get sick........

Get up and feed each type of animal from the right type of bag myself I suppose.
Thanks, I don't feel so bad now. Add MR to that list and I'm right there with ya. I've been trying to figure out a universal feed for all since they all run together (accept the baby poultry) separating to feed has become a nightmare.
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Old 07/15/09, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by LibertyWool View Post
Karin L, I agree that you could grain a cow every day of it's life if you wanted. But if you are trying to minimize input cost like Cheryl and me, is 3 months the minimum age that you would switch from a grain and forage diet to an all forage diet assuming the forage is high quality? It almost sounds like you are saying that you could stop at weaning, but that seems too young to me for a bottle raised calf.
Sometimes that high quality forage is low in fibre and cellulose, which the calf is still in need of. Three months is the AVERAGE time that a calf's stomach has become fully developed, therefore no I would continue to grain the calf, but at a lesser amount than what you had initially started with, so that the calf has exposure to both the high quality forage and the grain. I'm not saying that you could stop at weaning, because, depending on what goals you have in store for that particular calf, he or she still may need grain, though not in the form of calf starter, he/she still needs the protein quality that may be lacking in the hay and/or pasture he/she is on. And that goes for both replacement heifers (or just heifers being grown to be bred) and feeder/stocker steers.

Now as for the weaning age of a bottle raised calf, that I'm not familar with (I'm assuming it's 3 or 4 months?) But, like was mentioned before, the ideal time to decrease from graining them completely is around 6 months of age. Eight months is probably more ideal, provided they already have started their forage diet 3 or 4 months before you decide to stop graining them.
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Old 07/16/09, 11:25 AM
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I'm going to jump in there on the tail end of this conversation but the question of "to feed or not to feed" grain comes to mind here. As for my beef calves that are born in early Spring, they suckle their mothers and start on grass. Most of them never see a feed sack during the Summer months unless I'm adding loose minerals to the feeder or dumping a bucket in the lot to catch the cows.
The all grow just fine on grass without grain and are sold at salebarn. I'm assuming within just a couple of days they are introduced to feed at the feedlot. What am I missing here?

By the way, I'm with Topside on the single feeding issue. I feed dogfood to the farm dogs and cats and everything else gets a ration that mixed at the local feedstore that I buy in a one ton bulk sack. I bucket it out of the sack and it's much less complicated when I get the kids involved with chores.

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Old 07/16/09, 12:19 PM
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Karen L, thanks! I wean at 7 to 8 weeks, as the price of MR is so high. I like the idea of reducing the amount of grain as the calf gets older.

I agree about simplifying the number of feeds used. I have it down to two sets of feeds. One for birds and one for everything else.

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Old 07/16/09, 06:30 PM
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What you're missing is that the calf will be weaned instead of running with the mother. You need a good quality source of protein to replace that milk.

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