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  #1  
Old 07/31/09, 08:08 PM
 
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% of bottle calves survive/die

We bought 5 two day old holsteins last year and right away one died (scours) and the another one died at about 3 weeks from what appeared to be scours that we treated with a vets help--it was sick for about 3 days. The other three were healthy and are in great shape today. We plan on buying some more but we were told by a couple of people that raising a calf that young is a 50/50 shot. The dairy that sells the calves (bulls) said we shouldn't have lost any. What are the odds of raising bottle calves without losing any? We don't know if we should get only one or two. Thanks

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  #2  
Old 07/31/09, 08:15 PM
 
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This is my first year raising bottle calves. I bought a total of 5 dairy bull calves (2 in Feb and 3 the end May) plus my one farm born jersey heifer (Feb). Of those I lost one of the May bulls.

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  #3  
Old 07/31/09, 08:34 PM
 
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If the calves are under 100lbs start off feeding them 1/2 -3/4 of a bottle . Use good milk replacer and no soy added.


Patty

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  #4  
Old 07/31/09, 09:14 PM
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I think the mortality rate I've seen for Holstein heifers is something like 8 percent. Of course, that's according to one study, and we can expect the rate for bull calves to be higher.

Did you buy at auction or directly from a producer? I'd skip the sale barn and try to get 'em directly from a good dairy. Less stress and exposure to pathogens that way.

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  #5  
Old 08/01/09, 08:46 AM
 
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We bought them from the producer. It was the first time we had done anything like it and we did learn a lot. I swore to not do it again after the second one died but here we are. We were told by the producer to give them 1 1/2 quarts of replacer 2 times a day. We were wondering about colostrum--they only had gotten it once and that was it. We are thinking about giving it to them when we get them to see if that would help?

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  #6  
Old 08/01/09, 10:49 AM
 
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Colostrum does absolutely no good after 12-24 hrs after birth.

DO NOT OVERFEED THEM! That's the worst possible thing you could do. Start them off on 2-3 qt per day then work up to 4 qts per day and keep things clean. Get them on grain ASAP it makes things much easier...when they are eating 2lbs of grain per day wean them. Fresh water is a must.

Raising young calves is tricky...get a bright eyed healthy calf from the get go and you'll have a good start.

I custom raise dairy calves for a near by farm. I've raised 50+ with in the last year and lost 1. Knock on wood!

Good luck!

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  #7  
Old 08/01/09, 11:21 AM
 
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We brought our first dairy calves home from the sale barn. I think we bought five, and only two lived. All the black and white ones died; the two brown and white ones lived. So I figured the cross made them a little hardier.

My friend thought to go directly to the farm to buy hers. Hers also died.

This year I brought two crosses home from the sale barn, and they are doing great. But I think they were a few weeks old when I brought them home.

IMO you are assuming a greater risk the younger the calves are when you get them. I think you should insist that they be at least a week old.

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  #8  
Old 08/01/09, 03:50 PM
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There is a steep learning curve in raising week old calves. Let's say that 7 out of 10 survive. The people that know what a healthy calf looks like, have proper housing, a supply of medications, electrolytes, etc, buy from known sources do a lot better. Those that fall in love with those big brown eyes, don't have a clue what to do next, don't have dry shelter, don't have a mentor are most likely to be burying them in a week or so.

It doesn't matter what the average is. Many first calf purchases end in disaster. Not just the loss of the money to purchase, loss of money in medication and feed. It is the realization that it did not have to happen that hurts the worst.

There are many people that make a living raising calves from auctions that are only days or hours old. Their skill pays off in very low mortality rates.

You'd do better to focus on your skill level and preparedness as a clue to the survival rates, national averages are meaningless.

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  #9  
Old 08/01/09, 04:12 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haypoint View Post
There is a steep learning curve in raising week old calves. Let's say that 7 out of 10 survive. The people that know what a healthy calf looks like, have proper housing, a supply of medications, electrolytes, etc, buy from known sources do a lot better. Those that fall in love with those big brown eyes, don't have a clue what to do next, don't have dry shelter, don't have a mentor are most likely to be burying them in a week or so.

It doesn't matter what the average is. Many first calf purchases end in disaster. Not just the loss of the money to purchase, loss of money in medication and feed. It is the realization that it did not have to happen that hurts the worst.

There are many people that make a living raising calves from auctions that are only days or hours old. Their skill pays off in very low mortality rates.

You'd do better to focus on your skill level and preparedness as a clue to the survival rates, national averages are meaningless.
Bang on! And overfeeding in the first couple of weeks is one of the biggest killers. As Mary says, start off small and work up.

Cheers,
Ronnie
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  #10  
Old 08/01/09, 04:23 PM
 
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As mentioned we did learn a lot the first time around. We had a vet trying to help us and the farm we had gotten them from gave us advice which we followed. I have been reading about overfeeding being a problem and so am wondering if 1 1/2 quarts 2 times a day is too much so maybe start them with 1 quart twice a day? Also I have read if they eat too fast they can develop scours because they do not produce enough saliva to break down the milk they have taken in? I guess in the original post I was looking for experiences and maybe clues to where I messed up.

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  #11  
Old 08/01/09, 04:35 PM
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NEfarm, I didn't read what the other posters wrote...Here's my two cents, if you purchase your calves off a quality dairy farm then none should die...providing you are following all the rules of bottle calf raising...If your using sale barn calves then if you bought twenty I guess one would die...If your inexperienced I'd guess 7 out of the same twenty would die. Following standard rules will make all the difference...Wish I had more time to elaborate...Been turning and burning lately...Topside

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  #12  
Old 08/01/09, 05:36 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mary,tx View Post
IMO you are assuming a greater risk the younger the calves are when you get them. I think you should insist that they be at least a week old.
Yes, you are assuming greater risk, but here the dairies get their bull calves picked up twice a week. So you will NEVER get one that is even a week old direct from the dairy. You have to have a decent eye for a healthy calf to start and hope you did well in picking. Also, at first I feed 4 very small meals per day, working up to a gallon per day then 3 meals per day. I don't switch to twice a day feeding until they are 2 1/2 months old.
I don't feed grain, but I don't wean until 4 months old either. The one calf of mine that died, I should have never bought. I needed 4 calves and they only had 3 so I took all 3 and should have left this one behind from the start...he was one of those that was not healthy from birth. But it was a learning experience, and I count the monetary loss as an education.
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  #13  
Old 08/02/09, 02:01 AM
 
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Nefarmgirl since you buy the calves direct from the farmer try and get him/her to keep them for as long as possible before you pick them up, minimum 4 days old. Do you know how to judge a healthy calf from a less healthy one? How long is the journey home and how do you transport them? The best I have seen is the front of a horse float with so much straw the calves almost disappeared from sight. They could not get tossed around, were warm and secure. The first day I have them home they get electrolytes and no milk. My rule of thumb is they should get 10% of their body weight. A 30 kg calf would get 3 litres of milk. As others have said overfeeding causes more problems than pretty much anything else. From my POV a 3%loss rate is a failure and a reason to review my rearing methods.

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  #14  
Old 08/05/09, 12:28 PM
 
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ya the farm i get mine from have only lost one out of 140 so far this year and 6 sets of twins and the only one they lost was born dead

i have got 5 off them so far and they had messed up front legs but after a month there legs got better just took alot of work getting them to be right

and i got 2 twins one in march and just got another one last tuesday and he was born on sunday 7-26-09 he is a twin and has messed up legs wasnt doing the best wouldnt drink much at first now he is drinking a full bottle and doing alot better

but i had great luck with this one day responce stuff it works great the 2 big ones i got were from an auction and they were not good lost one (got 3 one died) put the other 2 on that one day responce for 4 feedings and cleared up there scours

so id say if you get them from a good farm you shouldnt loose any but auctions who knows even if it was a good calf going in it can come out of there a sick calf just from all the other sick ones that have been through there best thing to do is give it the shots the vets offer (dont know if its like that at any other sale barn) but the one i go to the vets are there offering there services and its cheap you just pay for the shot and a little of there time rather than paying at least a $30 service call after you get it home with at the sale barn the shot is $7

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  #15  
Old 08/08/09, 06:38 AM
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Buying a sick calf reduces your chances for success.
You can buy sick or healthy calves from both auctions and direct farm purchases.
The notion that only sick or injured calves go to auctions is false. I know of one dairy that sends all of their calves to auction. They ship thousands of calves each year.

If you don't know what a healthy calf looks like, get someone else to buy for you or quit looking at those week old calves.

Biggest killer of calves is the novice owner.
Failure to respond correctly to scours kills many calves.
Scours is often brought on by over feeding.
Overfeeding is done by people that lack knowledge and experience, then succumb to perceived hunger of their calves.

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  #16  
Old 08/08/09, 07:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haypoint View Post
Buying a sick calf reduces your chances for success.
You can buy sick or healthy calves from both auctions and direct farm purchases.
The notion that only sick or injured calves go to auctions is false. I know of one dairy that sends all of their calves to auction. They ship thousands of calves each year.

If you don't know what a healthy calf looks like, get someone else to buy for you or quit looking at those week old calves.

Biggest killer of calves is the novice owner.
Failure to respond correctly to scours kills many calves.
Scours is often brought on by over feeding.
Overfeeding is done by people that lack knowledge and experience, then succumb to perceived hunger of their calves.


Well said!
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  #17  
Old 08/10/09, 10:31 AM
 
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Seems a little harsh to me. The calves I brought home that died were treated with tlc, and were not overfed.

When my friend went right to the farm to buy a bottle calf, and asked the farmer how he treated scours, he went through such a litany of treatments that I was immediately convinced these little Holsteins were not easily kept alive.

IMO if you take those little guys through the auction, with little or no colostrum in them, and they are thusly exposed to everything under the sun, you have a pretty high risk on them.

I have learned that if I get a calf really cheap, there's a reason. The real cattle people could see that he was too small or too something. I don't buy them with wet chords, but have seen them sold that way. And I watch for poopy bottoms and wobbles. But you really have to be able to look at them for a few minutes before they actually run through the ring.

As a cattleman, I am only a novice. But I think the calves that died on me would have died on y'all.

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  #18  
Old 08/10/09, 09:30 PM
 
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Thank you for being honest in your opinions. I knew we had a lot to learn and I felt so horrible for losing the two we did. We bought 2 calves Friday from the same farm and he let me know that last year was not a good year for them as well. They have changed how they handle the calves and they have only had a few losses so far this year. He also said the calves are healthier too. They did look a lot better this year. He doesn't keep them for long--one or 2 days at the most since out of state buyers are taking a hundred at a time to raise. We chose a couple of one day olds since that was the oldest ones he had and we have been feeding them 3 times a day instead of 2 times like he told us to do. They look great so far and this time around feels right. So far no scours which is great since last time around they all had it within a day. I admit to having a lot to learn and I guess the best way is to jump in and try.

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  #19  
Old 08/10/09, 09:38 PM
 
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I'm going to get clobbered here but ..... While alot of the deaths do occur from overfeeding for our farm the biggest killer is drastic changes in the weather. An example would be going from 28 for a week then pouring rain and 16 for a couple days. The calves are all in the barn so at no time are they directly exposed to any sort of weather. the ventilation is excellent but every once in a while we will have a change in the weather and boom down go a bunch of calves. Now some of them will be saved with Nuflor but the odd one will die. Often they are older calves as well like about 2 months or so. The only really young babies we lose are the ones that are not born in calving pen.

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