Dairy calves vs. beef calves (feeder)

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by savinggrace, Jul 5, 2006.

  1. savinggrace

    savinggrace COO of manure management

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    Hi,

    I was curious-for those of you who have raised both dairy bull calves (holstein) and beef breed calves, what is your preference and why?

    I intend to get approx. 25 calves in September, have them on grain/pellets and hay over winter, and then pasture/hay through fall. My goal is efficient gain, and my market is a combination of direct marketing and selling through a small, local packing house.

    When checking a few producers, one told me I should consider holstein calves. Not sure how much merit there is to that, and I would love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks!
     
  2. tyusclan

    tyusclan Well-Known Member

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    Holsteins are fine for beef, and they gain very well. I wouldn't hesitate to raise holsteins for the ones selling direct. They sometimes won't bring quite as much at the auctions, and may not at the slaughterhouse. If you can find weaned calves you'll be ahead of the game. Bottle calves are fine for one or two, but the milk replacer is expensive, not to mention the time involved to feed 25 calves. I have a holstein steer that is 17 months old, and I'll be taking him to the slaughterhouse sometime this month. Hanging weight on him should go somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 to 900 lbs.
     

  3. bumpus

    bumpus Well-Known Member

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    It would be cheaper to raise dairy calves.
    If you are talking about raising baby milk bottle calves and you have never done it before you will probably have about half of them die on you the first week.

    You need to learn the process before you by 25 calves.
    Raising baby calves is not easy if you have never done it before.

    Start out with 2 or 3 and learn from experience first.
    See if someone around you does this and can help you learn.

    Baby calves get sick and die very easy.


    bumpus
    .
     
  4. savinggrace

    savinggrace COO of manure management

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    Hi,

    Thank you for the suggestions. I believe I will look into dairy calves.

    When I was in high school, a friend and I raised calves that the neighboring farmers would just give us because they were sick. We had a pretty good success rate, would sell them at 8 wks, and bought our first cars that way! :dance:
     
  5. bumpus

    bumpus Well-Known Member

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    Then you would have a very good chance at raising 25 at a time.
    You have been there.

    bumpus
    .
     
  6. milkinpigs

    milkinpigs Dairy/Hog Farmer

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    I disagree with the staement of calves dying easily. If the calf is sick when you buy it or has gone through an auction, it probably has been exposed to some bacteria or viruses, but most calves deaths are caused by mistakes made by the folks raising them...
     
  7. john in la

    john in la Well-Known Member

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    The reason for raising dairy bull calves is they are available at a young age so that means less cost. Most beef steers will be held onto by the rancher because it cost him nothing or very little to let it stay with mom and gain weight. A dairy bull (holstein) will bring less at selling time than a beef steer will but still makes a good butcher steer.


    I would have to agree that bottle calves die easy but I will also agree that it is most times the folks raising them. I believe that is what bumpus was saying anyway. If you have never raised a bottle calf you do not want to start with 25 of them. They will most likely die because you are not experienced enough to notice small problems and it can spread and get away from you real quick.
     
  8. Laura Workman

    Laura Workman (formerly Laura Jensen) Supporter

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    What about Jersey bull calves? I keep hearing that people on this board raise those for their own beef, even though they keep beef cattle.
     
  9. tulsamal

    tulsamal Well-Known Member

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    Huh. Either that statement is false or we have just been lucky! We raise one or two calves from bottle baby stage every year. Get them from a local dairy and raise them on surplus goat milk. Never knew it was supposed to be hard. Bottle twice a day, a couple of shots, band them when they look ready, what else is there? We've never had one get sick yet much less die! (Now you have probably jinxed me and we'll lose the next three!)

    But seriously, I don't see what's hard about it. If you did get a bunch of them at once and overcrowded them and fed them dried milk from a bag, maybe. Even then, the calves we have had have always seemed pretty darn durable. We just treat them like goats and it works!

    Gregg
     
  10. Tango

    Tango Well-Known Member

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    Jersey beef fat is yellow and tends to be disdained by the market preference for appearance. What I've heard in my community is that it is the best beef in the world :shrug:
     
  11. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    Either dairy or beef calves can work. Just depends on how much cash you are willing to budget to the venture. Beef calves would be available after weaning off mothers, larger size, higher price/pound, larger investment.
    Dairy bull calves are available at 3 days of age on up. Holstein Bull calves will require most cash investment of dairy breeds, but also easiest to market them. The colored dairy bull calves require the smallest initial investment, but will yield less return also.
    Now for your own freezer, a jersey or Guernsey steer is just fine. But for a venture where you need to sell them at the end, I would TOTALLY AVOID both of these breeds. Brown Swiss, Milking Shorthorn, Ayrshire, or crossbreds of these breeds with Holstein would work out well as dairy calves go. Or of course straight Holsteins.
    Questions you nedd to ask yourself:
    Do I have a REALLY GOOD FENCE?
    Do I have good winter housing for 25 head?
    Do I have time for the extra chores, acquiring and transporting feed, hay, cattle?
    Am I willing to forgoe trips away from home of more than 2 days to be there to feed &water them, or do I have a good friend to do this for me so I can leave the place now& then?
    Do I have a good butcher/meatcutting business to work with on the direct-market steers?
    Am I mentally prepared to accept some percentage of mortality?
    Do I have a stock trailer to facilitate transportation? And a vehicle to pull it?
    Personally, I would completely pass on the whole milk calf deal. I would have an order buyer select a group of 26 calves that are weaned, dehorned, castrated, had calfhood vaccinations, and weighing 350-500 pounds, all the same size and breed. These are known as LIGHT FEEDERS.
    I would not accept any heifers in the group.

    You surely have heard the old maxim BUY LOW, SELL HIGH. At this point in time you would be buying high. I would wait until winter approaches and watch for a cooling of market prices, then invest. If you buy high, market has potential to turn low by time these calves are ready for harvest fall of 2007. Unless you just like extra chore :rolleyes: or need a tax writeoff :)
    Best luck with the venture Savinggrace, and remember to keep a sense of humor about it. Life is too short to let a day go by without a good laugh!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :)
     
  12. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Jerseys grow slower than a Holstien as well which is particularly an issue if you are doing a veal calf. Jersey calves are considerably cheap in comparison...about $20 for Jersey and $75 for a Holstien.


    We use goat milk on ours as well...pastured w/goats they will learn to graze quicker.

    Black Angus beef is considered "the best" around here but there are way more holstien dairy farms around with surplus bull calves....

    Sometimes it may be difficult to purchase 25 calves in the Fall...most breed around here for April/May births and generally the cycle continues as the cows are bred to freshen at 2yo....a few odd balls but not many...
     
  13. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    You could contact Karl Klessig at Saxon Homestead Farms in SE WI. They raise a batch of crossbred dairy steers every year . They calve seasonally so groups of like size steers are produced. Light Feeders, otherwise known as Stockers :)