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7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:03 am
by ImperfectHomesteader
We bought Abbi at 1 week of age, she was on her mom for 4 days and a bottle for the 3 right before we got her. She was a twin to a bull calf - so chances are she's a freemartin (although my fingers are crossed she's not...) She'll go to "freezer camp" or if we got lucky she'll join our small herd (3 cow calf pairs).

We feed 2 bottles per day, 4qts each feeding of milk replacer, she has water, hay, calf starter available and is on green pasture. We have a creep gate on her pen so she can come & go as she wants & the cows aren't in her grain- nor are their calves- they have no interest. She seems to be doing very well. She is out with the cow/calf pairs on pasture and comes in for her bottle and then leaves again on her own. She's grazing with the others on pasture.

My question: Everything I have read & heard states she NEEDS grain starter. She nibbles at it, maybe a few mouth fulls but other than that she seems content and happy to be on grass. Even if I hand feed her the grain she isn't interested in much.

Part of me says I need to just let her be & quit worrying. If she was hungry she'd eat it. She is typically excited when I call for her with the bottle - but since being on pasture she's not quite as excited. She used to be moo'ing & eagerly waiting for the bottle at feeding times, now I have to call her or go find her out in the pasture. I don't think she's "stealing"/nursing on any of the cows- she's typically near them but not anywhere close enough to nurse. The calves on their cows are 3 & 4 mo old already.

Thoughts? Am I OK to just let her be? We just bought another bag of replacer, so our thought is we'll bottle feed her for another 3-4 weeks, weaning down to just 1 bottle in about 3 weeks. She'll be about 3 mo when we fully wean her from the bottle.

Re: 7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:32 am
by Workinonit Farm
Sounds like she's doing just fine. Does she look like she's "starved"? As in, too thin, getting pot-bellied? If not, I wouldn't worry about her. She'll eat the grain when she wants it. It sounds like you have a good set up for her and a good plan as far as 1 more bag of replacer. I'd let her keep doing what she's doing.

If she starts looking potty (pot bellied) and not thriving or growing well, then I would be inclined to intervene and do more.

Re: 7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:43 am
by dun
Are you sure she isn;t also nursing some of the cows in the pasture, i.e. a sneaky snacker? The way you are raising her is exactly how we do/did it unless we were raising them to train as oxen. Usually only took a couple of weeks and they would get slow to come in for their bottles and we would determine which cow had adopted them along with their own calf. The last one we did it with is now 9 years old and her unrelated twin and her are both still in the herd. She wasn;t a twin, her mother died when she was a week old.

Re: 7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 10:38 am
by ImperfectHomesteader
She isn't pot bellied. When she finishes her bottle she's full, about even with her ribs, and before she's just a tiny bit sunken, but I wouldn't say overly or looking starved. Abbi is the one on the left, in the "front". The back one is Allis- she's about 4 mo now. We just had a down pour go through and they were up in the "dry lot" area as I just fed Abbi and the rest of them are nosey :)

She could be stealing a meal - I was hoping she would but I haven't seen her close enough to one of the cows to even think there's a chance - but I'm only out there a short while during the day so who knows.


Re: 7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 10:46 am
by Rafter S
It sounds like she's doing fine, and you're taking good care of her. However, I wouldn't get my hopes up about her not being a freemartin. I'm not a vet, but from what I understand that she almost certainly is.

Re: 7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:05 am
by Son of Butch
I'd pull the hay for a few weeks and continue to try with the calf starter.
The calf starter will develop her rumen faster, eating hay before rumen can handle it creates pot bellied/hay bellies
and she's nibbling grass, so no need for hay yet. She'll be good to go when she finishes the last bag of milk replacer.
94% chance she's a free martin.... and free martins are delicious.

Re: 7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:14 am
by ImperfectHomesteader
That's what I was told, the rumen takes 21 days or so to start working once they start eating the starter. I started hand feeding it to her about 5 weeks ago (@ 2weeks of age), starting with just part of a handful up to about 4-5 handfulls a few weeks ago. But now, since putting her on pasture with the others, after her bottle I call her over to the bucket of starter and she'll maybe nibble a few bites and then off to the grass she goes. I'd imagine her rumen is working as it should be at this point.

My hope for the calf/creep gate was that the other calves would want the starter grain too which would entice Abbi to eat more of it - however they show no interest in going into the pen to get to the grain.

I've learned I can lead a calf to grain but I can't make her eat :)

Re: 7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:44 am
by dun
There is a blood test that can be done at her age that will tell you if she is a freemartin or not. BTW, from the picture she looks like she is really doing well.

Re: 7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 2:30 pm
by ImperfectHomesteader
Thanks. I might check into the blood test. Our thought was we'd have the vet check her out quick when he comes this fall to preg check the cows when we work them. If she has the parts etc. we'll test then.

Re: 7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 3:46 pm
by Workinonit Farm
Judging from that picture, she looks good. Like dun, I'm thinking she's stealing a snack here and there.

Re: 7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 5:44 pm
by turklilley
The reason that calf is not eating is because she's getting twice the milk replacer required. Two quarts a feeding is plenty, then she will start eating grain.

Re: 7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 3:23 pm
by farmerjan
I was going to say the same thing about the milk replacer. Most dairy farmers feed 1/2 gal bottle per feeding which is 2 qts. Some have upped it to 3 qts per feeding for the first 4-6 weeks then drop it as the calves start eating more grain. Realize that these calves are either in calf hutches or very small pens/lots so don't have access to much grass/ grazing. So if you are giving her 4 qts per feeding then she has no reason or need to want to bother with the grain and she is eating grass because "everyone else is doing it" . They do learn by watching/ doing what the others do. And she could be stealing a little milk when someone else is going to eat, so I would cut the amount fed per feeding,,,,,

Don't take this wrong as she looks fat and sassy and healthy. Just that she has no "need "to eat grain " if she is getting that much milk. One other thing, some breeds, and even some " families" of cows are less likely to be grain eaters than others. If your grass is real good, the grain is not so enticing. Our Red Polls are 10 times more likely to come running for the bucket, then just eat a mouthful and head right back to the grass. They are just not much on grain eating.

I wish you luck that she turns out to be the 10% and is good even with being a twin.....Yeah, the vet can palpate to see if all her parts seem to be there and if so, then a blood test could be in order, or at that point just try breeding her when the time is right. If she doesn't take, she will be about right and ready for the freezer at that point. You'll be feeding her anyway, so don't sweat it. If you bull breed then you might get lucky....A I is so much easier but a bull will help to kick her hormones into gear if there is any chance she is good.

The two calves look good......

Re: 7wk old Red Angus Bottle Calf

Posted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 9:41 pm
by ImperfectHomesteader
I noticed I posted wrong, I'm feeding her 2 qts twice a day. Sorry!
I came back and re-read this all. Tonight when I went to feed her I was a few hours later than normal and after the bottle she was quite pot bellied. My guess is that she filled up on grass because I was late? She's on good green pasture with the cow calf pairs. She could be stealing from one of the cows but judging by how she comes running for a bottle and watching her with the cows (she keeps her distance) I'm doubting it.

I do have calf starter out in a pen for her but she nibbles at it, she's yet to eat even 2 cups in a day (I put 4 in the bucket and there's always half or more left tbs next day)

How can I get rid of the pot belly? She's 8 weeks now, we have about 1/2 bag of starter left. Drop her to 1 bottle per day? Would that stimulate her to eat starter?