Successful calf rearing

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by Valmai, Mar 21, 2005.

  1. Valmai

    Valmai Well-Known Member

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    If I offend anybody with this comment I aplogise....
    In NZ it is illegal to transport any calf under 4 days old, or if it is 'unwell'. Over here the calves go into a barn on farm and get colostrum for 4 days in a warm stable environment. By that time they have learned to drink with the minimum of stress, and a practiced eye can pick the 'good doers' from those who are feble. Imagine how difficult it must be for any creature as little as 5/6 hours old to be transported any distance let lone a long distance. Is this part of the reason so many people in the US seem to lose calves? Can you arrange for the farmer to keep the calf for a few days? Do all dairy calves, other than replacements get put on a truck in the first day of their lives?
     
  2. dosthouhavemilk

    dosthouhavemilk Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Not all do. We rarely send a bull calf to the Sale Barn before he is at least five days old, though seven is our goal. The sale barn only functions on Saturday, so if a calf is born on Wednesday or later, they stay until the next Saturday. Though recently we have been keeping them longer to use up the extra milk. Right now we have a two month old, one who is a month and a half old, and a week old bull calf. Those all have homes in other states though...just waitiing for pickup.
    I wish it were illegal, though we would probably see more bull calves killed at birth again if that were the case.
    Our heifers are raised on our farm.
    We have lost two hiefers and a bull calf this year which is the most we have lost in the last three years combined. What we had was a aparently a bug, but with preventative measures we have kept the last heifer (born 3/1) and the bull calf (born 3/11) alive. Twyla is thriving and the bull calf..well it is stupid..very stupid. Has yet to really learn how to drink out of a bottle. Normally he would have been on a bucket by now. But we are being patient with it. Twyla had trouble getting started as well. At day seven though she latched onto the bottle wonderfully.


    There are heifer raisers who move the heifers calves from the birth farm to the new farm within 24 hours of birth. They sem to do well, but also generally get loaded up with vaccinations to prevent scouring and illness.

    The added stress to send a calf seems silly to me. The school far I work at tends to ship them every Saturday and has actually sent some born that morning, which I disagree with. I make sure that calf gets its full bottle of colostrum. Though the Jerseys generally end up slaughtered right away rather than raised....
     

  3. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

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    Valamai,

    First, a question: Why do you think so many dairy calves die in the U.S.? I'm not trying to be argumentative, just wondering what your source is. If you're basing your belief of high mortality rates based on reading the posts here, I would agree with you. I thought the same thing when I first started posting.

    (1) It's a self-selection problem. You aren't reading thread after thread with the subject line "My calf is healthy." People check in when they have problems.

    (2) What you see hear is in no way representative of how most calves are raised. I'm not slamming anyone here, but there are lots of environmental and nutrition related differences in how calves are raised.

    Yes, when you buy a day-old calf at the sale barn, it may or may not have received colostrum milk, it has had the stress of transport, and it more than likely has been exposed to a variety of bugs in the sale barn pens. Nonetheless, the vast majority of these calves survive and do well. Noone forces people to buy bottle calves at the sale barn, and most buyers no that there is a mortality risk when buying day-old calves. I frankly see no reason for any legislation that prohibits transport of calves under 4 days, and feeding "colostrum" milk for 4 days is just a bunch of BS. It matters for the first two feedings. Finally, I'd hate to try to guess whether a calf was 3, 4 or 5 days old.

    The differences in calf mortality start with the dry-cow ration. Then, it certainly matters as to the conditions in which the calf is born (cleanliness of maternity pen and the difficulty of calving. We give a scours-preventive gel prior to colostrum, dip navel and feed colostrum within the first 15 minutes. When the cow has licked the calf off, we move it to a clean individual pen in a heated and ventilated calf shed. We feed a 28% all-milk protein/25% fat milk replacer that has added vitamins and is medicated with oxytetracyline and neomycin. We keep the calves well-bedded and the temperature controlled, we start offering dry feed at 4 days and they always have access to clean water. Calf pails are scrubbed after each feeding. I raise both my bull and heifer calves (bull become feeder steers and are fed out), and I haven't lost a calf that hit the ground alive in 10 years. The meds cost more, good milk replacer is significantly more expensive, and I have more money tied up in facilities than do many homesteader types. We don't race through chores, and we catch health problems early and treat agressively. I'm not saying my methods are better, just different and the underlying economics are different. If I were to lose a heifer calf out of my Registered Holsteins, that's a several thousand dollar loss. As such, I'm going to spend more to manage dry-cow nutrition, the environment from birth to weaning, and on feeds and medications.

    If you wanted me to venture a guess as to why calf mortality for some homesteaders runs higher, I'd list, in order of importance: (1) environment in calf-raising shed/pen whatever (dirty + drafty = dead calves); (2) environment at time of calving (You want to lump in the transport/sale barn effect here as well); (3) dry cow nutrition; and (4) cheap milk replacer and/or feeding cow's milk (good replacer weans bigger calves and tends to have lower mortality rates.);

    If you are buying day-old calves, you can't control dry-cow nutrition and calving environment, but you can try to buy off the farm. After that, you control their ration and their living conditions.

    PLEASE NOTE: I am not trying to tell anybody how to do anything. I know that calves survive nursing off their mothers (I have a beef cow herd). I'm not attacking anyone or saying my methods are better. However you want to raise your calves is fine by me.
     
  4. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    milkstool, add experience to the success and I will fully agree. With many here it is a learning experience.
    You cannot fault a person for not knowing what they do not know and once they are aware of the problem I feel comfortable that the error is not repeated. As all of us know, it is costly to lose and animal!
     
  5. milkstoolcowboy

    milkstoolcowboy Farmer

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    Agman,
    You're right. All of us learn the hard way. You get the test first, and then the lesson. I've been responsible for a few critters dying by not treating soon enough or feeding the wrong way. Best you can do is try not to make the same mistake twice, but just when you think you've seen it all, livestock will find some new sickness or a new way to get hurt.
     
  6. quailkeeper

    quailkeeper Well-Known Member

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    Not all dairies are like that at all. There is a local dairy that I am going to Wednesday to pick up a 10 day old Holstein bull calf. Everyone I've seen run through the sale are at least 2-3 days old and they always make sure to announce that they have had their mother's milk. They also isolate them in their own pen called the "Wet Pen" so they don't get trampled and aren't exposed to too much bacteria or whatever. They also sell them first thing so they are less stressed. Of course I know its not like that everywhere.
     
  7. Valmai

    Valmai Well-Known Member

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    First of all thank you all for answering me.
    milkstoolcowboy Of course you're right, my choice of words was sloppy. I was going on comments on this site only, and as you say they dont post about healthy calves. Your description of how you raise your calves is very close to how I rear mine. I would disagree however that feeding colostrum for 4 days is BS. I know the most benefit is gained in the first 6/12 hrs. But the cow naturally produces colostrum for 4 days so mother nature thinks its worth it and so do I. Also colostrum milk is otherwise dumped so why not give it to the calves?
    "Finally, I'd hate to try to guess whether a calf was 3, 4 or 5 days old."
    At the very least, a dry clean navel.
    "I wish it were illegal, though we would probably see more bull calves killed at birth again if that were the case." Why?? There would still be a market for them wouldnt there?
     
  8. Maranman

    Maranman Well-Known Member

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    Hello to all,
    I am not saying all dairies do this,but I have worked on them and all that colstrum milk is dumped down the drain, when it could be fed to the calf or frozen and given or sold to the calf buyer(new borns and sick calves)ECT.Especially on farm calf sales....
    We milked goats for 7 years and froze all extra colustrum for feature uses as needed,when(A does milk did not come down,Weak kids ECT)even helped fellow goat milkers when they had problems and needed colstrum.I know how buuuusy dairyman are,I've been there.But still and all there is something that could be done.
    I also know about the laws as well......David
     
  9. dosthouhavemilk

    dosthouhavemilk Well-Known Member Supporter

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    "Why?? There would still be a market for them wouldnt there?"
    There isn't really a market for Jerseys to begin with. They want the Holsteins for Veal calves. Also, if a farm had to feed them for another week to wait for the next sale they wouldn't necesarilly want to waste the time and resources on an animal that will bring in around $5.00 anyways..(talking Jerseys here)



    Our calves get the colostrum from their dam for as long as it lasts. The first six milkings go into containers and that is what is fed to the calf until it runs out. Then they are either switched to milk replacer or raised on their dam's milk (if a heifer) or fed whatever milk is not being shipped (if a bull).
    We freeze some of the colostrum as well, but at this point with the Johne's, we don't freeze much.
    The school farm I work at feeds the colostrum after every milking to the cats. A lot of it is regs. You can't have buckets of milk in your milkhouse and if you have a larger herd keeping it all straight, so the calf does not milk from another dam (again, Johne's is the current issue) is time consuming. Simpler to dump it.
     
  10. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Our auction is on Tuesday so the local calves get picked up on Mon.

    I picked my calf out on Wed. picked him up on a Sunday. They didnt feed him as much as I did but they fed him colostrum twice a day until I picked him up. Ones that are born with broken legs are kept for the farmers meat supply...he told me that...
     
  11. quailkeeper

    quailkeeper Well-Known Member

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    "There isn't really a market for Jerseys to begin with. " Not true. I just sold a pure bred Jersey steer last week, 170 lbs brought $250. A two day old bull calf brought $110, also a Jersey.
     
  12. Maranman

    Maranman Well-Known Member

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    I have seen many ,many jersey calves bring more than $5.00 at auctions,and holstiens to.Milk prices went up,calf prices went up,and dairy cows have went up also. :)
    And what is strange to me is the people that know so much about them have so many to die(No offence Intended) ... :no:
    It might be time consuming and simplier to dump it,(but thats the world we live in today)no time to help others. :confused: :)
     
  13. dosthouhavemilk

    dosthouhavemilk Well-Known Member Supporter

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    heh, they aren't worth anything in our area, anyways.
    The highest they were bringing was $28.00
    We certainly didn't get that and what we were selling were meatier Jersey/Norwegian Red crosses (sold three, the oldest brought $5.00, $17.50 and $22.00 for the younger two). A lot of the price has to do with the area you are selling them in. We are in an area where Jersey farms are a dime a dozen and Jersey bull calves go cheap, cheap, cheap.

    Those bull calves we have on site right now are going to be sold for $35 for the oldest, $30, for the second and about $15 for the youngest....

    After seeing how nicely filled out these two month olds are, we probably will be holding on to future crosses and raising them up. These guys have size on them, with just milk.....




    We don't dump milk for the most part. When we were having to hold out 200 pounds of milk a day, we dumped a good portion of it. The 35 cats, two dogs, two bull calves, and three goat kids couldn't drink all that. :haha: We had/have so much colostrum from animals whose calves we lost (three cows worth), we didn't have the space to save it.

    Shame really...all that milk, wasted. But what was fed has grown some great looking animals! :)
     
  14. herefordman

    herefordman Well-Known Member

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    The national average for mortality losses for beef calving operations is typically 15% which is neither higher or lower than anywhere else I've been.
    And experience does count, but I also have seen people who interfere too much and cause many of the problems themselves.
    I once knew a University AG prof. who was extreme in his operation right down to having motion detectors and cameras on his calving pens so he could keep an eye on them even from his bedroom !!!
    He made sure they had every medication ever heard of, and carefully calculated feed rations and protein levels with a scale.
    His mortality rate........consistantly higher than the national average.
    Really ticked him off !!!
    :)
     
  15. shorty'smom

    shorty'smom Well-Known Member

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    $28 dollars? I can't believe it. I could almost afford to drive to Ohio to pick that up. We sat at the sale barn a week an a half ago and bid on cattle starting at $1.30 cwt. The price went up 20 cents just while we were sitting there buying our steers. We could've made money just by taking those we'd just bought and running them back through the ring and reselling them.

    Then we got them home (28 mile trip) and it was cold and rainy all the next day (went from 80 degrees to freezin within 24 hours) and half of them got sick. They got REALLY sick. We gave them all Micotil. some of them got better. Some got worse. One died. We gave the sick ones Baytril. Some of them got better, others started to stagger. We gave those few Exconel. They began to finally get better. We gave everybody more LA-200, just for good measure. Dang. Whatever the Sam-Hill they got at that sale ring, it ain't good. Today they all came up to eat but some were walking slow. It was a cold rain all day yesterday and today.
     
  16. shorty'smom

    shorty'smom Well-Known Member

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    You mean dairy cows can't just roam around the pasture at will and drop their calves wherever they happen to isolate themselves like beef cows?
     
  17. Valmai

    Valmai Well-Known Member

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    The national average for mortality losses for beef calving operations is typically 15% which is neither higher or lower than anywhere else I've been.
    Okay I know thats beef but assuming that dairy is similar I find that to be outrageous.
    Last spring I/we reared 1200+ calves to weaning, we lost 37 about 3% and that was because we bought in a few with rotovirus. I think that was far higher than it should have been. A couple of years ago when rearing calves on a dairy farm, we calved 955 cows and lost 11 calves, which the boss considered ok.
     
  18. shorty'smom

    shorty'smom Well-Known Member

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    Most beef cattle are ranged cattle in my part of the world. This means that there are really large operations, running thousands of head with a band of pickup driving, horse hauling cowboys traveling around to where the cows are checking them. It may be days before cows are looked at, even weeks, if it's not time for calves to come. The cows are so wild you can't get near them without a horse. They don't often see a human who's not on a horse and they are scared of us. The bulls are handled by 2 or 3 cowboys on horses with ropes. The horse helps keep the ropes taut between the cowboys and bull so he can't charge anybody.

    That is the large cattle outfit's way to raise beef around here. Little farm/ranch operations like us, rely on gentling the cattle down enough so that they learn that we are the source of food for them and we try not to cause them harm or stress unless it cannot be helped. Eventually, most will settle down over time and come in to the truck to eat.