Raising dairy calves

For the dairy folks and/or beef folks with questions about udders, milk and mastitis.
Elliotb16
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Raising dairy calves

Postby Elliotb16 » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:01 pm

Me and my dad have been discussing raising dairy calves and selling them around 400-500lbs. The plan is, is to buy them less than a week old for around $75, bottle feeding them for the first month or two, move them to a bigger spot to grain feed them then turn them out with our regular herd. Anybody have any experience with this? Any information would be appreciated :D
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bigbull338
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby bigbull338 » Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:50 am

i would not try raising any bottle dairy calves.because if an when they get scours youll be busy dring sick calves.an it takes 1 50lb sack of powdered milk to wean 1 calf.an that stuff is $40 or more a sack.plus they can be very labor intensive.plus getting pens for the calves.
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby GMN » Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:09 am

milk replacer is $60 a bag now, i use milk from older cows(not in the tank) to feed my calves. Best time to raise calves is winter, its a pain but the bugs are not alive in colder weather, I have had no problems this winter at al with any of my calves. In theory it sounds easy to make profit on baby calves, but it takes alot to get them to a good size, and you may find it hard now to buy them at $75 a head. You may consider buying a few old cows to feed them-then wean them

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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby novaman » Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:17 pm

You may not make much money raising them but it can be a good way for a younger generation to be active on the farm. When I was a kid I always had some pail calves to take care of. It made me feel really important and taught me a lot about cattle. If you can pick up bull calves for $75 I think you could turn a small profit. Put them on a good milk replacer and get a good high protein calf starter in front of them early on. Make sure they have access to water at all times (or at least a couple times a day during cold weather). Wean them off milk once they are consuming ~3 pounds of starter a day for a few consecutive days. I like to keep them on starter for several days post weaning to get them eating well and then I slowly introduce a good quality hay and some type of grower feed/grain. If you have any specific questions, ask away. This is a good forum with plenty of knowledgeable people.
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby TexasBred » Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:25 pm

GMN wrote:milk replacer is $60 a bag now, i use milk from older cows(not in the tank) to feed my calves. Best time to raise calves is winter, its a pain but the bugs are not alive in colder weather, I have had no problems this winter at al with any of my calves. In theory it sounds easy to make profit on baby calves, but it takes alot to get them to a good size, and you may find it hard now to buy them at $75 a head. You may consider buying a few old cows to feed them-then wean them

GMN


I'd rather drink from the lagoon than mess with baby calves. Nothing will try your patience, pride, or your marriage like those things. To me it's the hardest job on a dairy. My wife raised all ours are did a wonderful job and I give her FULL credit. :clap: I'd have lost half of them. GM we always used milk right out of the pipeline for years and it worked great. We were forced to raise one beef calf recently and I found a great milk replacer with Bovatec in it....72 gr/ton. Wasn't an all milk milk replacer but never had one problem and the calf is growing out great. Still wouldn't want a "mess of'em".
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby bigbull338 » Tue Mar 08, 2011 6:57 pm

ive got a friend that kicked her hubby out of the barn an milked both morning an nite.as well as bottling all of their calves.an in 20yrs or more of bottling 100 or more calves a year.she would only lose maybe 1 calf a year.if it was born alive she kept it alive.
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby TexasBred » Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:49 pm

bigbull338 wrote:ive got a friend that kicked her hubby out of the barn an milked both morning an nite.as well as bottling all of their calves.an in 20yrs or more of bottling 100 or more calves a year.she would only lose maybe 1 calf a year.if it was born alive she kept it alive.


It's definitely a skill many of us don't have....wife wasn't that good but only lost 3 out of 400 one year. I would have lost half of them mimimum. And wouldn't have even thought of asking her to milk nor allowed it.
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby TobyBenoit » Wed Mar 09, 2011 5:23 am

We just finished weaning our Jersey bull calves and today I went and bought five week old brangus/jersey crosses @ $30 per head. I stopped by the local feed store and picked up a hunnert pounds of milk replacer @ $39.99 per bag.

Helstein calves are running about $20.00 each, but I have a higher mortality rate with the holsteins(30%) than with the jersey and jersey crosses(10%) I'm getting from the dairy in N Fl.

I feed them 7:00am, 12:00pm, 5pm, and 10pm. I start them on calf strarter right away and been weaning at seven weeks. I keep water out free choice and free choice them on Tifton hay at three weeks and on.

Last bunch of jersey cross calves I sold at 4wt and got in $.90 per pound, which is a good price for them, but still not enough to ever get too far ahead with feed prices the way they are. Still, I really enjoy the calves, so we always have some out in the pens.
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby bigbull338 » Wed Mar 09, 2011 8:21 am

TexasBred wrote:
bigbull338 wrote:ive got a friend that kicked her hubby out of the barn an milked both morning an nite.as well as bottling all of their calves.an in 20yrs or more of bottling 100 or more calves a year.she would only lose maybe 1 calf a year.if it was born alive she kept it alive.


It's definitely a skill many of us don't have....wife wasn't that good but only lost 3 out of 400 one year. I would have lost half of them mimimum. And wouldn't have even thought of asking her to milk nor allowed it.

TB that man im talking about was high up in the reg holstein assoc,as well as big in DHIA.his RHA was well over 22,000 a cow.he was 1 of the 1st dairies i know of in the late 70s early 80s to start ETing his cows when it 1st came out.most all of his cows was AI sired.an he still has 3 juggs full of holstein semen that would make your eyes pop.he was also the 1st parrlell barn in the late 60s early 70s.
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby novaman » Wed Mar 09, 2011 11:44 am

TobyBenoit wrote:We just finished weaning our Jersey bull calves and today I went and bought five week old brangus/jersey crosses @ $30 per head. I stopped by the local feed store and picked up a hunnert pounds of milk replacer @ $39.99 per bag.

Helstein calves are running about $20.00 each, but I have a higher mortality rate with the holsteins(30%) than with the jersey and jersey crosses(10%) I'm getting from the dairy in N Fl.

I feed them 7:00am, 12:00pm, 5pm, and 10pm. I start them on calf strarter right away and been weaning at seven weeks. I keep water out free choice and free choice them on Tifton hay at three weeks and on.

Last bunch of jersey cross calves I sold at 4wt and got in $.90 per pound, which is a good price for them, but still not enough to ever get too far ahead with feed prices the way they are. Still, I really enjoy the calves, so we always have some out in the pens.

I don't want to sound critical but I'm trying to figure out why you are doing what you do. Jersey bull calves aren't worth squat. Paying $30 for them when you can get Holsteins for $20 is foolish. Holsteins will always be worth more and grow out better. If you have 30% mortality rates you need to take a good hard look at the management side and figure out what you're doing wrong. It shouldn't take much to stay at or around 10%. Don't know where you're buying milk replacer for $40 but you better stock up at the price. Anything around here is nothing less than $60. Feeding 4 times a day is added labor that doesn't gain a whole lot. Further you are concentrating the feedings during the day and letting them go a full 9 hours overnight. Stick with 2 feedings spaced 12 hours apart and be done with it. Your calves would do much better if they were fed a high protein calf starter rather than grass hay. Just a few things I wanted to point out.
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby TobyBenoit » Wed Mar 09, 2011 4:20 pm

Thanks, Novaman. I'm no expert and appreciate all advise.

Why Jersey over holstein? Simple, I have fewer sick calves to fight to keep alive. Nothing sucks worse than losing a calf. In my experience, whether I'm doing something wrong or not, holsteins have been more sickly and I don't experience that with the jersey bulls/steers. True, they aren't worth much, but I'm not in it to get rich. I have a seperate income; I'm an outdoor writer/novelist and my calves keep me out of the house and away from my desk. Also, I just like to raise the little guys.

I've been raising them on my own now for only a few years. I started with holsteins and was feeding at 7pm and 7am. The local vet suggested I feed three or four smaller feedings per day as opposed to two large feedings. So I've been doing it that way since. I may go back to a twice a day feeding and see how they do.

I do get them started on calf starter right away and keep the hay out there for them also. I start them early on the calf starter and will usually get them to eat as much of that as I can before offering them their milk. The milk replacer I have been buying at Ranch Hand Feeds in Brookesville, Fl. It's possible they can let you know their supplier for your own local feed store to stock it for you. If you are using milk replacer, it might save you some money to contact them at 352-799-0778.
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby dun » Wed Mar 09, 2011 4:29 pm

TobyBenoit wrote:Thanks, Novaman. I'm no expert and appreciate all advise.

Why Jersey over holstein? Simple, I have fewer sick calves to fight to keep alive. Nothing sucks worse than losing a calf. In my experience, whether I'm doing something wrong or not, holsteins have been more sickly and I don't experience that with the jersey bulls/steers. True, they aren't worth much, but I'm not in it to get rich. I have a seperate income; I'm an outdoor writer/novelist and my calves keep me out of the house and away from my desk. Also, I just like to raise the little guys.

I've been raising them on my own now for only a few years. I started with holsteins and was feeding at 7pm and 7am. The local vet suggested I feed three or four smaller feedings per day as opposed to two large feedings. So I've been doing it that way since. I may go back to a twice a day feeding and see how they do.

I do get them started on calf starter right away and keep the hay out there for them also. I start them early on the calf starter and will usually get them to eat as much of that as I can before offering them their milk. The milk replacer I have been buying at Ranch Hand Feeds in Brookesville, Fl. It's possible they can let you know their supplier for your own local feed store to stock it for you. If you are using milk replacer, it might save you some money to contact them at 352-799-0778.

What is the analysis, fat and protein of the milk replacer?
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby novaman » Fri Mar 11, 2011 12:46 pm

TobyBenoit wrote:Thanks, Novaman. I'm no expert and appreciate all advise.

Why Jersey over holstein? Simple, I have fewer sick calves to fight to keep alive. Nothing sucks worse than losing a calf. In my experience, whether I'm doing something wrong or not, holsteins have been more sickly and I don't experience that with the jersey bulls/steers. True, they aren't worth much, but I'm not in it to get rich. I have a seperate income; I'm an outdoor writer/novelist and my calves keep me out of the house and away from my desk. Also, I just like to raise the little guys.

I've been raising them on my own now for only a few years. I started with holsteins and was feeding at 7pm and 7am. The local vet suggested I feed three or four smaller feedings per day as opposed to two large feedings. So I've been doing it that way since. I may go back to a twice a day feeding and see how they do.

I do get them started on calf starter right away and keep the hay out there for them also. I start them early on the calf starter and will usually get them to eat as much of that as I can before offering them their milk. The milk replacer I have been buying at Ranch Hand Feeds in Brookesville, Fl. It's possible they can let you know their supplier for your own local feed store to stock it for you. If you are using milk replacer, it might save you some money to contact them at 352-799-0778.

I am curious why you've had bad luck with Holsteins. Could it be the dairy you are getting the calves from? If they aren't getting colostrum in a timely matter they can be sickly. I've never raised Jerseys so I know nothing about them. Twice a day feeding is adequate. Three times a day may be slightly better but I don't have to time for it so I stick with feeding morning and evening. My calves do extremely well on this schedule. I can make calves grow very well and have very nearly zero health issues. I do, however, feed a higher plane of nutrition than what most typically do. Baby calves are the most efficient animals when it comes to protein utilization. Feed them the proper rate of a good all milk replacer and have a high protein calf starter available at all times with good clean water and you will have healthy calves that grow out very good. I would strongly advise against putting any hay in with any calves younger than a couple weeks post weaning. Let them fill up on a good quality starter rather than bulky slow to pass hay, especially grass hay.
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby regolith » Sat Mar 12, 2011 4:21 am

I think most people find Holsteins easier than Jerseys -more robust, right from the start. Perhaps it is something to do with your source (or the age of calf when you get it) - all your Jerseys come from one dairy? Sounds like they're doing something right and at five weeks old they've done the hardest part of rearing already.

I do give my calves hay if I've got good quality grass hay to offer - they like it and I'd reckon it does them better than grass. I've seen calves held inside on milk and starter scraping through the sawdust to get at any leaves of grass that poke grow under the shed walls, or chewing string or any roughage they can get.
They still eat plenty starter, tho I don't usually offer as much as 3lb till weaning off milk - it's ad-lib to about 2lb then I increase it for a week or two while they're adjusting to being weaned.
(mind you, my calves are Crossbred and Jersey so they might be eating more in relation to their weight)

Feeding calves 3 - 4 times daily (at 6 - 8 hour intervals) is a good technique for saving a dying calf. That's it. What happens to 10 - 30% of your calves - scours? I can understand why the vet may have recommended smaller feeds more often if you have calves in recovery from scours but it shouldn't be necessary for healthy calves.
I'd call 10% mortality too high, though it is more difficult to keep the rate down with bought calves of unknown history.
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Re: Raising dairy calves

Postby ozarkbulls » Mon Mar 21, 2011 4:42 am

I only feed 2 times a day, exactly on schedule. Maybe if it's sub-zero temps, I'll do a mid-day extra feeding. I always have grain, water and a small amount of good quality hay in front of them. They get curious and nibble on it, plus I think if they feel like they need the roughage, they'll eat it.

It's a very large undertaking raising dairy calves out. Very time consuming, and labor intensive, and profit margins are slim, at best. I raised 155 calves last year and lost 4 (in my defense, one was determined to have been born with a lung defect) Made pretty good money on them, but my hay is "free" since I baled it, no milk replacer costs, (helps if you work at a dairy :D ) already had the calf pens, and the barn space available. Without already having all this, my margins would have been waaay down.
It's a tough road to travel, and not for everybody.
Edit to add. Older guy up the road hired me to raise his 4 holsteins, like he said, there's no way I have the time, patience, or knowledge anymore for it. I'm charging $3 a day per head for feeding until weaning, covers, milk (free for me :D ) calf housing, and feeding. Any meds are an extra charge.
So, that should give you an idea on margins, he thinks it's a bargain to not have to mess with it. But I do have a reputation for putting out some high quality calves, so that helps a bit.
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