Monday, January 30, 2012

Things to look for when purchasing a calf

The email inbox seen a lot of activity last week about cattle and calf questions, but there was one that stood out that I wanted to share.
“I have a question?  What are the things you need to look for when purchasing a calf.  I bought one last year and I believe that it did not get the what he needed. I never owned cattle and I would like to start.”
It doesn’t matter wither I’m purchasing a calf directly from a dairyman, rancher, or livestock auction there are some things I pay attention to. It makes it a little easier when buying directly from the owner because you can ask questions, but observing the calf provides a huge amount of information as well.

The first thing I pay attention to is the breed of the calf. It really doesn’t matter to me what breed the calf is with the exception of a few I stay away from.

I avoid Jersey bulls or steers.Although they take to bottle feeding extremely well, many people do stay away because they can be a handful to handle. I don’t know if I would say they have an aggressive behavior, but they are different than other breeds. As they grow, you need to be aware of them at all times when your around them.

I also avoid Longhorn steers because they have a lower resell value. All the steers I raise are resold somewhere after they have reached about 600 pounds. Longhorns sell cheaper and it takes longer to get the weight on them making it harder to see a return.
Know Longhorn heifers is a different story, well it has to be the right Longhorn heifer. The other thing I look for is the general condition and health of the calf. Not that I will not purchase  a sick calf, but it will affect the amount I’m willing to pay.

I not going pay top dollar for a calf that has something wrong with them.  I have been doing this long enough to spot the problems almost immediately. Someone that is new to purchasing calves things do move quickly in a sell ring. 

I always show up early and look them over as best as I can. Sometimes they may be laying down, but you can still get a good ideal of the overall condition. Once in the ring they will be moving around and you get a better judge of the calf.

I start looking the calf over at the nose. If there is any snot or mucus coming from the nostrils then I am not going to be interested. Then I want to take a good look at the eyes.

If the calf’s has one or two eyes that are cloudy or milky looking, then the calf is either has an infection or it could possible be permanently blind. I look to see if the calf has clear eyes and looking around making eye contact with objects. If the calf’s eyes are clear but it is just looking at the ground or stairs off in space or isn’t looking around, then I am not interested in the calf. Next I look at the calf’s ears.

If one of the ears on the calf is drooping, there is good chance it has an ear infection. If both ears on the calf are drooping straight down, then it could be weak or running fever, but is ill. I want a calf with ears straight out or up with some movement.

I want the calf to have a straight back. If it is hunched/bowed up or has a sway then the calf is sick.
The calf’s tail must be dry. When a calf has a wet tail then it has been scouring and I don’t need a calf that is already scouring from the start. If it has dry poop on the tail that’s Ok or fresh poop. I just don’t want the tail to be wet.

I also pay close attention to the way they’re acting on their feet. If their hooves are folding under when their walking or causing them trouble to stand, I’m going to be cautious about purchasing the calf. If the calf’s hooves are folding under on the back legs, I will not buy the calf. This is called buckling and if the calf is doing this once it falls or lies down it won’t be ably to get up.

Then take a look at the calves navel next. I am looking for a calf with a normal size navel. If the calf’s navel looks puffy, swollen, or enlarged then this calf has a ruptured navel. They’ll be fine with it but resale value is extremely low. 

Ideally I want a calf with straight back, clear eyes, no snot, a dry tail, and standing on it’s hooves well.
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-There are some good advice on caring for a calf in this web site, but always refer to your veterinarian for proper treatment of sick animals. Some home remedies work, but veterinarians know best, and can save you money and heartache with exact treatment For this sites Terms and Conditions click here.