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Calf rearing - beginner

  • 08-02-2023 10:02pm
    Registered Users Posts: 46

    Hi all,

    I'm looking for some pointers as I'm a complete novice on calves. Have been considering buying in some calves maybe about one month old. Apart from the obvious don't do it to yourself answer could anyone give me some pointers on how to best manage it. Any key things I need to know? I've a small empty lean-to shed, access to some straw. I will have to buy some feeders, anything else I will need before purchasing? What about vaccinations etc. for scour/pneumonia? Best age to buy in and best milk replacer and meal?

    Any help much appreciated!



  • Registered Users Posts: 790 ✭✭✭Sugarbowl

    Just out of interest, What kind of breed are you thinking of getting?

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,059 ✭✭✭Good loser

    They're very cheap - you're not risking much. Get at least 10 and a 10 nipple feeder. Feed 5 at a time for the start; give full feed the first evening you bring them home. About 1 lb of powder in 5l water. Watch for blood scour/coccidiosis; if you catch early one dose will fix.

    Try and get over 50 kg; buy Fr bulls now and Her or AA in April.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,280 ✭✭✭

    It years since I raised calves so there is not much i can offer as between forgetting little tips and vaccinations has changed a lot since then. There is vital tips I haven't forgot, keep the calves clean, disinfect and no draughts. Best of luck.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,332 ✭✭✭Lime Tree Farm

    Buy a thermometer.

    Electrolyte solution only on Day 1

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,510 ✭✭✭amacca

    Carefully examine the milk replacer you do intend to give them

    You are looking for high protein supplied by whey/ want to avoid anything with too much palm oil or **** coconut etc....the particles/globules with that are larger than those produced from a dairy source dont absorb well in the intestines and promote scour and are generally inferior shite imo......a good rule of thumb is avoid any powder that's darker in colour than very light/pale yellow....the label will tell you what's in it and where the proteins are derived from generally (and if it doesn't that could be your first warning) can be tempting to go for the cheaper stuff when it comes to CMR but trust me, its 100% a false economy...but then again the whole thing is a false economy if you ask me.

    Always have fresh water in front of them and a small amount of crunch/good quality straw from day 1 to entice them to start nibbling and get them off the powder a bit quicker.

    If they do get a scour treat them obviously but the main battle in terms of keeping them alive is keeping them hydrated...a fairly well fed calf that's kept hydrated normally won't go downhill as fast as one that's dehydrated.....I lost almost none when I learned that....a lot of scours run their course over 3/4 days and if the calf is hydrated and fed and you can keep them going that length they'll generally survive (rookie mistake to withdraw feed when they scour) and if a cdlf needs treatmentand you feel its beyond you call the vet before yhey deteriorate (judging that is s matter of might panic too early or not panic early enough whrn you are starting off - unless you are ftom a fayming background).....obviously prevention is better than cure with all of the above but no matter how hard you try youll have a bout of hardship at some stage.

    You can make up your own electrolyte with glucose, salt, water and bread soda I think you a bit on buying the sachets that you can put into good CMR so you have less problems.

    Likewise natural yoghurt diluted in water this can get them back on track after a scour/setback

    And lastly even though its clear you have your mind set (and who am I to question - but I'm going to anyway)....are you really sure you want to do this to yourself?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 46 Fendtro11

    @Sugarbowl Angus i was thinking. I've only ever had angus bullock yearlings in the past

  • Registered Users Posts: 17,840 ✭✭✭✭Donald Trump

    The calves might be cheap, but rearing them not necessarily so.

  • Registered Users Posts: 46 Fendtro11

    @Good loser Thanks very much for the advice, typically what age roughly would a 50kg calf be?

  • Registered Users Posts: 46 Fendtro11 Many thanks. As in disinfect before and after calves are in the shed? Just on draughts, its a small open front shed. I was going to put some wind breaker across the top to make it less open and a gate on front with 1m overhang. Would this still sound too draughty?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 10,838 ✭✭✭✭Base price

    IMO this post is just another fooking vegan/anti farming livestock/bloodstock troll post. They normally start off about this time of the year.

  • Registered Users Posts: 46 Fendtro11

    @amacca Really appreciate all that detail and info so thanks very much for taking the time. Just a couple of things, I don't have piped water to the shed so would changing water every day be ok? Also I'm trying to figure out the crunch, would i just leave a couple of handfuls in the feed trough in the pen and keep an eye or leave a set amount per calf and try monitor the intake?

    Any other tips on keeping them hydrated if they have scour or is their something i can mix in the water for them? Another member said only to give electrolytes on day one after arrival?

    Will take note on the natural yoghurt!

    On that last bit, yes i think I have to as I've been considering for a while :)

  • Registered Users Posts: 46 Fendtro11

    @Base price hopefully you've accidently posted on the wrong post as it makes no sense to my Q. If not your opinion couldn't be further from the truth

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,858 ✭✭✭farawaygrass

    I’m normally suspicious of a lot of new posters but if you click on the username you see when they joined, and previous posts etc. this guy has been on boards a few years.

    it’s the same with the Facebook groups, if there is only a recent profile picture and none previously, I put them down as a troll

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,510 ✭✭✭amacca

    Changing water every day should be OK

    On the crunch Their intake might be very low initially but try to have a small amount of fresh crunch snd straw in front of them daily....maybe s handful to begin with as it will only get spoilt....I used to use a tiny smount of dried alfalfa to get them chewing and found it good...but not necessary at all (it was only because I had access to it for free - I'm not sure you'll ever see that recommended anywhere....

    You will get to know the rate they eat at and put out appropriate amounts....I used to use wydale feeders after a few weeks and give enough that all in a small group got their fill and top up as necessary to take a bit of the work out of it....those feeders allow you to pour in a decent bulk amount and the wedge shape traps the meal so only a small amount spills out...then as the calf eats it makes more room for more to fall so that the calf can take what it wants and the trapped stuff doesn't spoil...those feeders are expensive at around 200 a pop though....I found the wydale (blue feeders) milk feeders with the soft white teats easily the best of the feeders too (superior to peach teats , milk bar in almost every way - their main dusadvantage they were easier for calves to up end by pucking underneath than a lot of other brands.....another thing you should do to avoid problems is supervise them while drinking (if you are not using an autofeeder) as sure as night follows day some rill feed faster than others and puck the slower drinker out of the way creating two problems in that the once that gorge themselves are at increased risk of a nutritional scour (which might be easily sorted enough but still a pain in the hole) and the ones that don't drink adequately/are bullied can go downhill on you.

    The electrolytes on arrival I used to do if they were coming from a mart as it might have meant it had been a while since they had drank and they will probably have a better appetite for first feed making them easier to manage and its no harm to hydrate them...if they were coming from a local farm I normally not bother and I'd slowly get them in on the CMR I'm using if different from what was being fed with small won't kill a calf by not giving a full feed straight away and allow them time to better adjust over a day or two of small feeds and less overall than what you want to get them on... but if you give them a big load of CMR the first day you will increase the chances of giving them a digestive upset and headaches for you.

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,838 ✭✭✭✭Base price

  • Registered Users Posts: 46 Fendtro11

    @Base price Ah no problem I was thinking, happens to the best of us

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,059 ✭✭✭Good loser

    3 to 4 weeks. In many marts now calves are weighed.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,637 ✭✭✭Jjameson

    Don’t forget to dehorn them before they get too hardy.

  • Registered Users Posts: 62 ✭✭Mr..

    If at all possible keep them in small bunches even though it might increase your work load, if one gets a scour it wont spread to as many and it will reduce bullying.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 913 ✭✭✭nhg

    We keep them in batches of 10 to suit vaccinations & feeders etc

  • Registered Users Posts: 46 Fendtro11

    @amacca Thanks a million for the useful advice. Really appreciated and have taken note of it all.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,510 ✭✭✭amacca

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,015 ✭✭✭Injuryprone

    I don't think an open sided shed would do for young calves.

  • Registered Users Posts: 46 Fendtro11

    @Injuryprone I was covering the gate and putting wind breaker along the top to reduce draught and cold hopefully

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,657 ✭✭✭funkey_monkey

    I was told that it is best to give calves clean straw to pick at as the straws pricks their stomach lining and this is good for getting their digestive system up and going. Would it be okay to use Alfalfa instead of straw as it is similarly prickly (if that is the correct term).

    We buy in Alfalfa for the cows calving as it dries them up on the straw beds and generally is a better option than silage. It would be high in protein too which I am assuming would be good for the calves?

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,332 ✭✭✭Lime Tree Farm

    This link doesn't seem too happy with alfalfa for "scratch factor"

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,657 ✭✭✭funkey_monkey

    Well that fncks that idea.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,231 ✭✭✭Anto_Meath

    Last year I had 10 Fr calves in a batch, from about three weeks until about 8 weeks I used to mix a "slice" of alfalfa into their bucket of meal every day and feed it to them in the troughs with the starter crunch I was also adding some rolled oats into the mix and they also had constant access to fresh green hay. I actually think these calves done very well and I plan on repeating the same feed practice again this year. The troughs were licked clean every morning.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 10,313 ✭✭✭✭patsy_mccabe

    Where is everyone getting the Alfalfa?