We were a bit late on weaning the calves from the bottle onto feed and grass; we waited until about 3 months old, mostly just because we lost track of time! They were weaning just as the grass was really coming in thick so we were hopeful we could just wean straight to grass …
Lesson #1: Bottle Babies Need Grain Feed
Unfortunately, calves that come off commercial formula have to wean onto some kind of feed or their growth will be stunted and they could get sick. They really need the protein and carbs found in the feed. =(
So, we went from 2 full bottles of milk a day, and slowly cut back about an 8th of the bottle at a time, so as not to cause nutritional scours or other health issues for them. While doing this, we offered them free grain in buckets in their stall. At first they weren’t eating much grain.
Lesson #2: Cows LOVE Grain
We don’t plan to keep them on grain long; just until they hit their weight requirement, then they will be grass fed. however, we have learned that while milk is like crack for a baby cow, grain is even more so! Those babies go crazy over the grain! Not that I want them to, but it is just evident that cows are bred to eat, gain, and be slaughtered.
Fortunately, they don’t have much longer before we can start weaning them from the grain. In the meantime, I plan to call a local feed operation and see if they can make me a healthier grain-based feed.
All this leads into- next year we will hopefully purchase a mama/baby pair and get a bottle baby or 2 to put with her. We knew getting these calves that it would be a learning experience, and the next time will be as well, I’m sure. We didn’t want to invest the money in a cow/calf pair being completely new; but knowing that a nursing calf is healthier in general, and of course the way God intended it, is motivation for trying it out next time!
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