raising calves for profit

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Has anyone had luck, raising calves from a dairy until they are weaned ,as a business?

-- Cathy Benson (1024@nethawk.com), June 26, 2000


We raised 10 bottle calves (heifers) that were angus/dairy mix and we lost only one to pneumonia during an unexpected cold spell. They are now out in the field as part of our cattle herd and looking really nice.

You need to get the bigger bottles 1 1/2 qt size and I would feed 3 times a day instead of the twice recommended on the calf replacer. Definitely work with your vet on what shots to give them right away and on what schedule. If the calf has had mother's first milk, you have a good chance with the calves. There is colostrum replacer though if you need it, but it is expensive.

Our neighbors told us we were crazy to do bottle calves, now they comment about how nice our cows look (much better than theirs). It can be done, but it is labor intensive. I would do it again in a heart beat if I didn't work outside of the home.

If you want to do bottle calves, you might think about doing replacements for the dairies themselves as well. There was an article in Successful Farming late last year about a man doing just that in Colorado.

-- beckie (sunshine_horses@yahoo.com), June 27, 2000.

You might want to try beef calves at first since dairy calves have a very high death rate. Take a good look at them first. Do they look healthy or have a hang-dog look. See if they will let you pet them. Put a finger or two in their mouths to make sure they will suck. If they are running at either end it could be trouble. Work with your vet to gain experience. In the last issue I had an item about including comfrey in milk replacer. Received a call from a guy in Wisc. whose father's hobby is raising dairy calves. Had a couple of sick ones and he said the comfrey seemed to help them. He put some leaves in a blender with water, then added it to the milk replacer. I've raised six or eight bottle calves and didn't lose a one.

-- Ken Scharabok (scharabo@aol.com), June 27, 2000.

A book I recommend is Raising a Calf for Beef. It is available through the Countryside Bookstore and can be ordered via e-mail for prompt delivery.

-- Ken Scharabok (scharabo@aol.com), June 29, 2000.

I sell baby calves from my dairy all year long, so see alot of people come and go from calf raising. Most that make a good profit go ahead and raise the calf to a few hundred pounds, then sell. One fellow sold through a auction and complained he lost money, but his calves were only 8 weeks old. You can't buy a calf for $100, put $100 into it, and sell for $175. Next time he put them on pasture for a few months. The suggestion to raise dairy replacements is good, but heifer calves are high, high. $200 or more right of the cow. I have raised calves 12 years and never lost a bottle calf. I use no shots or Vets. Can't spend $100 vet charge on a $100 calf anyway. I use milk right from the cow. More advice--stay clear of the operator who hauls calves in from out of state and has ads in the papers. Say two people try this and had lots of death loss from stress. Don

-- Don (dairyagri@yahoo.com), July 02, 2000.

About 5 years ago, we were raising about 100 bottle/pail calves from various sources. It was interesting and educational for us and the children, but financially it was a disaster. Very high mortality rate also. Wouldn't do it again. We had better luck buying weaned feeder cattle and feeding them out. Good luck.

-- kim (barkinbarnyard@rrv.net), July 21, 2000.

we bought 23 holsteins calves in november of 2000. at this writing we have 3 still walking. needless to say this has been an education. however, i have not given up on this idea, but am waiting for warmer weather and will work with only 3 or 4 at a time. i plan to keep them on the bottle longer and keep them seperated for the first month. i will also give them clean quality hay and meeasure their food

-- mark bowdy (mbowdyt@aol.com), January 21, 2001.

We have been most successful when we dealt with a dairyman that we trusted and who had good herd management. We have one dairy that we have never gotten a bad calf from, they give colostrum the first couple of days and then call us to pick up. We combine goat's milk with a good quality milk replacer, do our own doctoring when needed, (any shots, disbudding, banding etc.) and do ok. One vet call can suck the profit out of it. I think people that try to save money with the cheaper milk replacers are just buying trouble. We hardly ever lost a calf. Then, on the other hand, when we were buying from the stock yard we lost a big percentage and it was a real disaster.

-- diane (gardiacaprines@yahoo.com), January 21, 2001.

Thanks for all the helpful answers. It is nice to know there are people willing to help others with their advice and past experiences.

-- Cathy Benson (1024@nethawk.com), January 21, 2001.

We started with 15 dairy calves and only have 4 left. If we were to buy again it would be in the spring so that they are not so young when it gets cold. They need to be kept separated and on the bottle for a little longer than it suggests. If you are just starting off I would just get about four and once you get some experience and and your own routine try gettting more at a time. Good Luck

-- Beth Herren (elizabeth.herren@okdhs.org), February 28, 2001.

We are just starting to raise bottle calves. We bought 6 and have lost 2. The two we lost were eating and didn't show signs of sickness then the next day they were dying. Does anyone have any idea what happened. They could not stand or even hold their heads up. They both lay kicking like they were in alot of pain. We cannot understand why they take their night bottle and are fine, then the next morning the are almost dead. Can anyone help. ----Please!!!

-- John & Missie Janke (giddyup@advertisnet.com), July 24, 2001.

I bet you lost them between day 7-12 ? They never had colestrum {sp} .There isnt much money to be made up north raising calves as you are paying an arm and leg for them to begin with .Your death rate can be as high as 50% .

-- Patty {NY State} (fodfarms@slic.com), July 24, 2001.

we have raised baby calves before, had 16 of them, gave them shots for pneumonia, and scours, got them up to about 300 lbs ready to turn out. came in from work one day and five were dead and the rest didnt look so good. Called the vet and he diagnosied them with coccidiosis. the vet said it was primarily a disease that chickens got but it could effect cattle and they likely got it from water. Our water was rain water but was sitting in the tank for days at a time. Long story short we lost all but three of those calves. A treatment can be added to water to take care of this but of all the people I had talked to no one knew or ever heard about it. we lost finanically on that one and emotionally too but am going to do it again. This was in the winter time into spring and we changed bedding weekly and did we thought everything right. But anyway will raise baby calves again but am considering buying jersey cows and raise three or four calves to each cow. Supplement each calf with hay and sweetfeed. Oh yeah did I mention how the peoples coon dogs got into my milk replacer and ruined about three bags at 30$ a pop? Oh yeah another story. Good luck.

-- keith b shepherd (brentkeithshepherd@hotmail.com), March 19, 2002.

Does anyone know the following:

1) how much milk replacer per calf

2) how much calf pellets per calf

3) how much hay per calf

to raise them to market? We bought 10 calves and just wondering how much it is going to cost to raise them. Is there really any money to be made for all the work? What is the best weight to sell them at? Thanks very much.

-- kay weeldreyer (kayweel@yahoo.com), March 22, 2002.

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