How long before weaning?

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by Sarah J, Mar 1, 2004.

  1. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Southeast Iowa
    How long does this calf of mine need to be on grain before he can be weaned? He still seems small for what *I* think he should be, but is filling out and doing fine, really...He's getting two bottles of milk and a bottle of water each day. He's got water accessible in a heated bucket (still dropping below zero at night) and knows how to drink it (though I've never actually *caught* him drinking it by himself, the level is down each day and I've coaxed him so I know he knows it's there! :) ). He eats hay daily - he's always got a mouthful when I go out in the morning and again in the late afternoon. He gets a cup of grain every day - but that is recent. He JUST started showing interest in the grain in the last week. Thinking to "up" that dose of grain to 3 cups or more, gradually - is that right?

    So he's been on hay for two weeks or more, grain for three or four days. He is now 6 1/2 weeks old. I want to wean him when he is 9 or 10 weeks - give him that extra time for growth due to his two weeks of scours when he was younger.

    Is that okay? Or does he need to be on grain longer than that before he gets weaned? I was thinking a month on the grain should be enough - is that right? And then the next question: do i taper him off? Like move to half a bottle in the morning, whole bottle at night, then after a few days do two half-bottles? Then take it down to one bottle, etc? Or is that not right?

    I'm a bit paranoid after losing the other calf...don't want to do *anything* wrong with this one. And I'll pay for extra milk replacer to keep him on it a while longer than the "norm". Everything I've ever read has said that the longer you can keep them on it, the healthier they'll be...and I'm all for that!

    Advice?

    Sarah
     
  2. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    Sarah,

    When I have bottle calves, I give them free choice to calf starter, in addition to the bottles. I can't remember, but once they are eating a certain amount of starter a day, you can remove the bottles. It will usually tell you on the bag of starter or milk replacer. Put enough starter out that there is just a bit left when you feed again. Don't let it get yucky.

    He should also have free choice hay and water.

    I try to get babies off the bottle as soon as possible, but I'm too busy to really mess with them. It won't hurt for him to be on it longer. I think four months is the longest I have ever heard of someone doing bottles. I usually get rid of them in a couple months.

    In my experience, bottle babies are always smaller and have the orphan potbelly look. I do not raise bottle babies on purpose though, just when it is necessary, so I don't put the care into them that some others might.

    Good luck

    Jena
     

  3. Razorback21

    Razorback21 Well-Known Member

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    Sarah,
    Whether it is right or wrong, we expose grain to our calves when they are about 2 weeks old. We feed the same amount of milk replacer and when the calves are done with the bottle, at some point, they will get an interest in the feed and start on it. If they are starting on hay, I'm sure they will dig into the feed as well. When they start eating about a pound a day of feed, we start cutting back the milk and by the time they are eating 2-3 pounds a day, we wean them off the milk. Right or wrong I don't know. That has worked for us. Takes about 50-75 days. I know dairy farmers pride themselves on 6 or 7 weeks weaning, but 7 weeks has been our BEST case so far. By the way, your calves will not like weaning! They will bawl at you the first day or so. Be prepared for it.

    Razorback21
     
  4. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    He was offered hay at week #2 which he ignored for another week or two before timidly trying it. The grain was offered, too, for a while but the chickens always jumped in and grabbed it before he could - and he was not really interested anyway. When he was about 4 weeks old I could get him to eat a few handsful of grain out of my hand, but only if he was sucking fingers with me sort of pouring it into his mouth, at which point he's chew on it...but immediately abandon it in favor of his bottle.

    NOW he is eating the grain whenever I give it to him - about a cup and a half, twice a day. I haven't weighed it, but I think that's about a pound. He always leaves it to come get his bottle, but will definitely finish it and chase the birds away now. :) It isn't calf starter. This is a grain mix that I've been giving to my goats and sheep, but I grind it for the calf: corn, oats, wheat, soy and molasses with a touch of salt. It's about a 16% protein ration.

    How quickly should I "up" the grain portions? He always has a mouthful of hay when I go in there, but drops it to moo at us and run for the gate! :rolleyes: I just opened a new bag of milk replacer and am assuming it's the last one (4th 25 pound bag, but the first one was shared...). Should I start by dropping a bottle or just cut back on the amount *in* the bottle? I was thinking I might go to a full morning grain ration and then a late afternoon bottle. Then drop the afternoon bottle to a water bottle instead? Over the course of a couple of weeks, I think...

    I've never done this before...I definitely need to get an actual cow, I think - let her raise her own and milk her out too! :D

    -Sarah
     
  5. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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  6. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Wow - that lists almost exactly what my mix is, with a couple of small differences! Cool! I feel better now! :) I guess, in many ways, a rumen is a rumen...the goats and sheep do great on this stuff, and it looks like the calf will, too. I just have to crush the grains for the calf, where the others take them whole. Thanks!

    -Sarah
     
  7. I have had good luck giving them starter from the time they are 4 days old. Usually free choice, I have a hard time getting them started but once they are started watch out. I also usually only feed about one 50 pound bag of milk replacer per calf. This has worked good for me, but I also have a grass pen where I keep my bums. Out of 7 or 87 head I have raised I have only had a couple that really looked like orphans. Some I have even sold right along with our light calves in the fall.

    Good luck with your calf