Last week my husband came across an ad for bottle fed calves (meaning they are never nursed on their mama-also meaning we would become baby cows’ mama!). We discussed the pros and cons of starting cows right now, and here are a few things we came up with:
- We are most definitely NOT professional farmers/cattle raisers. So starting with babies that are less expensive than our “dream” cow/calf combo is probably best
- In July I will have a 4th human baby to nurse- it is probably best that we (translated to I) am only nursing one species at a time … so to speak. So starting calves now, while I am in my 2nd trimester, feeling good, and have less to do would be a pro; waiting until our 4th human baby is a year+ old to get cows would be a con. Plus, by the time human baby comes, baby cows will be old enough to go out to pasture.
- Soon we will be out of our side of beef we bought last year, which means that when it is time to butcher these guys, our freezer should be nice and empty for them.
- Butchering bottle fed calves that we (the kids and I) have raised will kinda suck … but we can always do it again, starting with more fluffy little calves.
- Our own meat in the freezer will ROCK!
- Selling the beef once it is ready for butcher shouldn’t be too hard; we know lots of people looking for farm raised, antibiotic free, grassfed beef
- Does adding beef cattle make us official farmers? =)
Well the answer to the last question is no. I think successfully raising beef the way God intended will make us official homesteaders/farmers … so we will see how this goes!
After the above discussion, we decided that we would give it a go!
J.Tom promptly started re-building the stalls he just tore out of the barn, and moving some equipment out of the barn to make room for the baby cows (yes, we just call them baby cows around here). We also had to check the pasture was safe and secure and J.Tom bought two Cattle Guards to go at either end of the pasture.
We made our list of necessities based upon hours and hours of reading and youtube-watching which consisted of:
- soy-free milk replacer
- bottle holders (for when I don’t have time to feed them myself)
- calf starter pellets
- straw for bedding
- a trough for their stall until we are ready to turn them onto the small pond pasture
- a halter
We quickly realized J.Tom’s knot and rope tying skills could make us a much nicer halter than the ones at the stores; so that will be returned. The reason for halter training them is so they’re easier to bring in from pasture if you have to, return to pasture if they get out, and put onto the trailer on their big day.
When the farmer delivered the cows, he commented on what a nice set up we had for them, and how that was one of the first things in keeping them healthy; basically, if you can keep them alive the first 3 weeks or so, you should be fine, he said. Also, he offered for us to call him with any and all questions, because he gets really upset when people lose a calf. He feels like there really isn’t any reason to lose a calf; just call him and he will tell us what to do if anyone gets sick. *whew* That was a relief for this beginner! The calves are about 9 or 10 days old.
I was really impressed when he told us they have been on colostrum for several days, bottle fed, and NONE of the cows they come from ever get antibiotics or shots. That means our three little cows are getting the best start in life they possibly can; doesn’t mean they will all make it (fingers crossed they do!) but they do have a head start.
He also mentioned to feed them MILK protein only replacer- NO soy. This was another relief because A) soy is evil and B) I’d already bought a more expensive, quality milk replacer that was soy free.
Quite honestly, I can’t tell you how excited we are; the 3 days leading up to their delivery included some SERIOUS nesting on all our parts- think nesting for your first baby but on steroids!
They don’t have names … not sure we should name them since they aren’t pets; the kids joke about hamburger and ketchup for names (definitely their daddy’s sense of humor). I think maybe we should just call them “calf 1, 2, and 3.”
It stinks that not all calves are raised with their mamas, but that is just the reality of some farms, not all farms can afford to have fabric buildings, but we are so lucky we have the space to keep ours safe. I am happy we could take them in and raise them to be healthy, grass fed cows so we and other families can have beef the way nature intended.
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