Caring for calves can be divided into five main areas: bottle feeding with milk replacers, scours aliments, housing, starter feeding, and recognizing sick calves.
Raising bottle calves require a lot of work, but can be useful to cattle production. Bottle calves can be replacement heifers for future generations in cattle herds, and steers can be raised for food for your use or sold to feed lots.
Feeding Milk Replacers
There has always been some debate on how times a
day calves should suckle feed when raising bottle calves.
The most common amounts are two to three times a day, and depending on who you talk to, you will get different answers on which is better.
Most milk replacers are designed to be most effective fed two times a day; mourning and evening, and have no benefit to be fed more than twice, in fact can cause scours if over fed.
When bottle feeding calves, I feed two bottles a day, calves begin eating starter feed faster which is more cost effective.
Scours is the runny watery diaherria that many calves get. Scours can be a serious aliment that can result in sudden deaths.
There are many products for the treatment of scours, and depending of the age of the calf and severity of the scours some more effective than others.
Electrolytes are the most important factor in treating scours. Deliver is the product I use the most, and have found it to be effective that any age or severity of scours.
I always follow up with electrolytes after administering the deliver feedings. I prefer to give the electrolytes in a bottle midday mixed with just warm water, but some calves won’t drink it so I will add little milk replacer to get them to drink.
At one time its was recommended to house calves separate from each other to prevent calves from suckling one another and lowering the spread of disease, but times are changing and group housing is now the preferred method in raising bottle calves.
The benefits and comfort level of the calves housed with other calves out weights the exposer to disease.
All housing for bottle calves must be clean, dry, and properly ventilated.
I prefer build my calf houses out of 1” X 6” boards every 4” apart about two feet wide, then place a tarp or removable ply wood on the top.
This way they are ventilated, provide protection, and can remove the top on nice sunny days to dry out also making them easily cleaned and sanitize.
The calf pen surrounding the houses are also made of 1” X 6” boards 5” apart so they can’t get their head stuck between the boards.
Fresh clean water should be available right from the start, also the calves should have access to grass or hay to graze on, even if they seem to only ingest only one mouth full a day, as the calves grow their intake of grass or hay will increase.
Starter feed is a palatable pellet or coarse mix of grains. It should contain 15% to 20% crude protein and 75% to 80% of the total nutritional requirements for the bottle calves, but should not have any urea until their rumen is completely developed.
It depends on the amount of starter feed the calf ingests, but normally after two months the rumen is set.
I also will provide a supplemental feed like Calf-Manna about every three days when the calves or older than a month it seems to aid in growth.
It is important to know when bottle feeding calves are not feeling well.
The calves themselves will not be able to tell you that they feel bad, but by observing some behavior of the calves and taking the rectal temperature you can head off illness before they get worst.