Brood cow vs milk replacer

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Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby riquezada » Fri Mar 03, 2017 9:52 pm

There's a young man where I work that raises a few bottle calves. He may have anywhere from 1 to 10 at a time. I'm trying to talk him into getting a Jersey cow or something familiar for him to put some calves on instead if buying that expensive (IMO) replacer. I've raised lots of calves years ago and I probably haven't raised 2% off of replacer. I never had over 2 or 3 on at a time. I even have a Jersey in my beef herd just in case I have an orphan but last time an old Angus took one before we knew it. I put the cow and her calf in front to sell the calf the next day. I gave her some grain and when she and her calf were eating the little calf started nursing. She looked at it once and kept it for another 4 months or so. To me it seems a heck if a lot easier to raise calves on a brood cow instead of the replacer route. I think his partner in the business keeps talking him out of it. Overall I think it would be cheaper and a lot easier...labor wise...
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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby Aaron » Fri Mar 17, 2017 12:53 pm

I don't know how you can afford to bottle calves on replacer. Costs about $400 in replacer to raise a calf from birth to weaning here. I sell all my orphans to neighbor that has two Jersey/Angus cows he milks. He wouldn't do it if he had to use replacer - too expensive he says as well. He can feed about 9 calves when both cows are fresh.
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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby M-5 » Fri Mar 17, 2017 1:31 pm

Its relative to what you want to do. the cost the milk cow and upkeep has to be factored in as well. most folks only feed replacer about 6 weeks so its not but around 100 bucks in replacer cost , Then you have them on feed until weaning.
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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby farmerjan » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:09 pm

It's a situation that basically has to make sense to the person doing it. I have done both, for many years. I personally prefer the nurse cow routine. Takes a bit to get them established sometimes, but once they are, then it is a next to no labor deal.
Here a normal dairy figures one bag of milk replacer to get a calf to 6-9 weeks weaning. But the added cost of good milk replacer, and grain, and labor gets the calf to about $250-300 just to the 8-12 week age. Then you are talking a fair amount of grain for the protein and all to grow the calf. Most dairy farmers figure that it costs between $1500 - $2000 to get a heifer into the milking herd. Beef will cost a bit less, but if a person were to figure in everything, a decent average beef heifer ready to calve you will have at least $1500 in her.
For me, and I did the figures several years back; if I had a nurse cow that would raise 3 calves, with the added grain I fed her to keep her production up for the first 3-4 months, it would cost me about $1000-$1200 for her for the year; grain, pasture, hay, and my extra labor for the first couple of months. But then I figure she is giving me back about $1500 in calf sales, or more. So I figured that 2 calves paid for her and the third was profit. Since then, milk replacer has gotten higher $75 a bag verses $60. Grain is a bit more and hay runs about the same on good years. Still, a calf will naturally just grow better on a cow by getting milk when it wants, as much as it wants. I think everyone can mostly agree with a beef calf does better on his momma than on a bottle
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If you have the cows and milk them and bottle feed the milk you can raise a couple more, and supplement with grain like Aaron's neighbor probably does and still come out ahead. There's a little more labor, a little more feed costs, but he is getting more calves for it than if he just put 2 or 3 on each cow. He is also probably getting milk for himself for the house so there is that benefit. That is why I will often bring my cows into the barn even when the calves are established, and maybe keep the calves off one of the cows for 12 hours and milk her for the house too. I also have one cow that is only a 3 teat girl, that will come in and I can milk a gal or so once a day and she usually has 1 or 2 calves on her too, without having to keep the calves off for the 12 hours. So she is usually the designated "milk cow" plus the 2 calves she is feeding. Even if she is only feeding one calf, that is all we require from a beef cow so she is basically paying her way if not making me much extra. Last year she had her purebred jersey heifer on her and I milked her 2-3 times a week for the house and I said she paid for herself. The calf is real nice, and I got all the milk I wanted and when I got to the point of her getting up in days of milk, I quit grain feeding her, quit milking her and then I dried her off when I took the calf away and weaned it.

There is no perfect way to do it. To each his own, but I do feel it is cheaper and better for the calves to have nurse cows, or milk cows that you feed REAL MILK to the calves you are bottle raising. And the milk cow can reproduce herself which the bag of milk replacer sure can't do.

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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby angus9259 » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:58 pm

For calves I intended to retain, I backed off looking at Jersey nurse cow due to Johnes potential.

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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby riquezada » Fri Mar 17, 2017 3:06 pm

After raising hundreds and hundreds of calves over the past 30 years, I have only bought one bag of milk replacer in the past 20 years or so. It was a good learning experience for our early 20's daughter to bottle feed this calf last year. We were down to about 1 1/2 days of replacer when it started nursing the old cow, so we got lucky.

If I were to again specifically raise "bottle calves" I would only do it on nurse cows. I don't see at current weaning prices, say Holsteins or Xs, that anyone could make a dime doing it with replacer. With the nurse cow there's still costs involved but over a while I know a person would be ahead
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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby RanchMan90 » Fri Mar 17, 2017 5:07 pm

A nurse cow will cut the cost of raising a calf to 6 weeks by 50%-60% of milk replacer costs. That still doesn't buy you a profit unless the right type of calves are bought for the right price. :2cents:
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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby Bigfoot » Fri Mar 17, 2017 7:15 pm

Hard to beat the real stuff. I put 2 Holsteins on a cow that lost her calf. That was about 3 weeks or so ago I guess. They look dynomite compared to what I would associate with 3 week old bucket calves. I think replacer just keeps em going till they can handle grain. These calves are actually growing.
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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby pricefarm » Fri Mar 17, 2017 9:19 pm

Bigfoot wrote:Hard to beat the real stuff. I put 2 Holsteins on a cow that lost her calf. That was about 3 weeks or so ago I guess. They look dynomite compared to what I would associate with 3 week old bucket calves. I think replacer just keeps em going till they can handle grain. These calves are actually growing.


How did you get the cow to take two calves?

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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby Bigfoot » Fri Mar 17, 2017 9:52 pm

pricefarm wrote:
Bigfoot wrote:Hard to beat the real stuff. I put 2 Holsteins on a cow that lost her calf. That was about 3 weeks or so ago I guess. They look dynomite compared to what I would associate with 3 week old bucket calves. I think replacer just keeps em going till they can handle grain. These calves are actually growing.


How did you get the cow to take two calves?


Dumb luck I guess, but I usually put 2 on when a cow loses one. Hard to fight 2.
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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby backhoeboogie » Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:36 am

pricefarm wrote:How did you get the cow to take two calves?


I have a nursing crate for hard cases. After three days the calf has the cow's scent. I keep the graft calves and the natural calf in the pen and let them all nurse at the same time when the cow is crated. "Two calves" is no big deal. its the 4th that gives me trouble

You can sponge milk onto the calf and give the calf the scent. It works sometimes.

Some cows just don't make good nurse cows.

I buy beef calves and graft them to dairy cows. Occasionally I get people calling me asking if I have a wet cow. Its all in timing. If a cow is already nursing all the calves she needs, I'm not really in the market.
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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby WalnutCrest » Tue Mar 21, 2017 2:54 pm

Interesting thread.

No guarantees ...

A friend of mine was put in a pinch with needing to get a nurse cow after a couple of his older cows died shortly after calving ... so, he went and bought a jersey nurse cow ... and about two weeks after grafting the three (?) calves onto the jersey, she died too. He then punted on the calves and sold them for cheap and wished he would have sold the calves before buying the (now dead) jersey.
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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby Stocker Steve » Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:29 pm

What do you look for in a nurse cow?
Do you think 3 titter Jerseys are a good low cost approach?
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Re: Brood cow vs milk replacer

Postby farmerjan » Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:46 pm

I have 3 that are 3-teat cows. One was a jersey I bought as a bred heifer as one quarter blew up, and the farmer didn't want to be bothered with her coming in with only 3 teats. She fed 2 calves that year. Usually, I put the calves on them and then let them run with them all the time. When I have a cow that I want to come in the barn, then she can raise as many calves as she has teats, and the ones with holstein in them will raise 5 or 6 at a time. I'll let the 3 calves suck, then kick them out of the stall and put the next 2 or 3 on her. EVERY cow has a different disposition. It is a job to pull 3 calves off and get the next "shift" on her. But she is pretty patient.
Let's face it, if she has 3 good teats, and she is a lesser price due to that, them she ought to raise 3 calves and a beef cow only raises one. I'll leave them on until 6-8 months or so weaning; or until she is 2-3 months from her next due date. They grow good, they learn to graze and eat hay and grain, and they just do better.
Have a jer/hol cross heifer that just calved a week or so ago. Nice angus x heifer calf. I got 2 hol calves and she will raise these 3 . She's got 4 good teats, but being a heifer, won't make the milk that an older cow would. She is also a little younger/smaller than I normally calve them. Wasn't supposed to get bred to calve until fall....She is just a little over 2 and she ran with the beef heifers so didn't grow as fast a dairy heifer would if she was fed more concentated feed. I mostly like to calve at 30 months or thereabouts. She favors the jersey more in size. Have one that is jer/hol and she is huge, looks just like a hol and eats like one too.


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