Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Calfy, Mousie, and Mini

Last fall, Danny bought feeder calves. Typically, heifers go for a slightly lower price, so we ended up with several large feedlot heifers. He was somewhat apprehensive that they were so large, and some of them were "bawlers" meaning they had just been weaned.

It turned out that quite a few of the heifers had been accidentally bred by having been weaned so late - if the heifer calves are left with the cow-herd so long they can be mature before they are separated from their mothers, and often the bull is the first to learn this.

So anyway, this spring, it became clear that some of the heifers were going to calve, and the plan was to allow each calf to stay with it's mother for the first 24 hours to get colostrum, then bring it to our barn so we could bottle raise it. That way the feedlot heifer that just gave birth would be able to continue on in the feedlot, and the calf would be ensured good nutrition. Often heifers bred so accidentally young as these were don't handle the stress of nursing a calf. So we did what was best for both calves and the heifers.

The first calf we got was a little black bull calf, who we allowed our daughter the priveledge of naming. She spent all afternoon trying to think of a good name for the little calf, saying she was "thinking 'bout it" in the sweet little way that she had. Finally I told her that we'd just call the calf "Cowboy" when she said no, his name is "Calfy." So Calfy it is.

A while later another feedlot calf was born. This one was a heifer, black with a white face, and some of the strangest ears I'd seen on a calf - they stuck up, not out to the sides like a normal calf's ears would. So I made the executive decision to call this calf Mousie - in honor of Minnie Mouse, because her ears made her look more like a mouse than a calf.

We put Calfy and Mousie in the same stable thinking it would be nice to let the calves have some bovine companionship. But that backfired. Calfy took to sucking on Mousie's ears in between bottle feedings, and Mousie found a place on the little bull calf to suck. Not good! So we ended up having to keep the calves separated until they were eating hay and feed and not so used to sucking on a bottle. I've heard people complain about the way dairy calves or veal calves are raised in individual stalls, but we found that it was in the calves' best interest to keep them apart from each other.

Calfy and Mousie have since been weaned from the bottle, and have been eating good alfalfa hay and sweet cattle feed and doing well.

Since then, there was a calf born just last month who wasn't getting enough to eat from it's mother. It was 5 days old and just skinny as can be, but spunky. Cora decided to call this calf Mini, right away. Mini started taking her bottles readily from the beginning, you could sure tell this calf was hungry! She looks healthy now, and is nearly ready for just eating hay and feed, though we'll gradually wean her from the milk replacer. I'll be glad when I don't have to mix a bottle twice a day!

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