Advice needed on calf weaning!

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lms0229

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Can anyone provide me with tips or advice on how to wing bottle and early? I have 5-7 weeks old dairy calves andim offering water and calf starter at all times, but all they want is the milk replacer. I try to even hand feed them and they just turn their noses up at it. Can someone please give me some tips on how to wing these babies early?
 

Son of Butch

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Once they are eating 1.5 lbs/day of calf starter just quit giving them milk replacer.
Sprinkling dry milk replacer on top of their calf starter feed can encourage them to eat more starter.
IF you don't want to stop their bottle cold turkey then just one bottle a day for 2-3 days and quit.
I've found calves prefer a textured calf starter rather than the pelleted starters and a small handful in their mouth
when you walk past them a couple times a day also helps.
 

Silver

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Pretty tough on a bottle calf to wean them if their rumen isn't developed. It won't be developed if it hasn't been eating any solid food. It takes at least 3 weeks of solid food consumption to develop the rumen. Like SoB said, if they up to 1.5 lbs per day of solids then you could wean the calf.
It can be tricky to get them going on the starter though, lots of different things to try. If you can get them drinking out of a pail (no nipple) you can put some starter in with it, they will often get to cleaning it up off the bottom, then increase starter and reduce the replacer. I've had good luck just putting out a little fresh dry starter every day in a clean dish and eventually they pick around enough they get onto it and start looking for more.
 

Lucky_P

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From Day One, I always kept fresh, palatable calf starter ration out for the bottle calves... and changed it every few days, if they weren't consuming it. But... after every bottle feeding, and any/every time I happened to pass by the pen or hutch, I'd cram handfuls of calf starter into the calves' mouth so they could get a taste of it.
As SoB said, once they're eating 1.5#/day, you can stop the bottle and bump up the grain ration pretty rapidly. I could usually wean calves by 4-6 weeks... never had one take longer than 6 weeks, though I'd usually feed heifers a bottle on out to 8 weeks. Had plenty of steers that didn't get a bottle for longer than a month.
 

farmerjan

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How much milk are you feeding them? I had calves that didn't want to eat much, but they were getting a 3 qt bottle which is bigger than the usual 2 qt bottle. Many dairies are upping the milk/ milk replacer to 3 qts per feeding to get better growth on the heifers. Many are feeding waste milk, and a few are even feeding milk from the tank instead of milk replacer because the milk prices have dropped so much. And one farmer that is really REALLY exacting, showed me his figures and what milk had to bring for it to be more economical to feed replacer. He also feeds the VERY BEST quality of replacer, and calf feed and runs an AVERAGE of 70,000 on his SCC in his tank. He wins awards every year for lowest SCC. Way below what most dairies that run 150,000 to 250,000.

So back to the calves not wanting to try the feed. Are they getting hay? cut the hay back so they are going for the feed. At that age they will get more bang for the buck, eating nutrient dense grain rather than hay. Dairy breed calves can be tough. Holsteins especially seem to run in the try feed early or never want to try it. My jersey cross calves seem to be way ahead of the holsteins in trying feed.
One other thing I found that works for me is to have a mix of ages so that the older calves will go to the bunk when I put grain in it, then the younger ones think they are missing something.

There is a "nipple feeder" that is for grain. Maybe Nasco catalog has it? Not sure where I have seen it. As a last resort, it could help you. I think that cutting their bottle to once a day, and physically putting the grain in their mouths is the best way to get them to eat it. And cutting back on any hay.

I have 8 calves on 3 cows, 2 months down to 3 weeks. Plus 1 bottle & 2 bucket calves. Every single one is eating some/alot of grain and I never put the first bite in any of their mouths. They started on their own, with the 2 month ones going to the bunk and the littler ones wanting to see what they were missing.
Just got a new nurse cow yesterday, and the bottle baby is trying to go on her, she is very low down as her udder ligament support is not great. One of the two bucket calves will go on her if I guide it with my fingers in its' mouth; the other bucket calf wants no part and I will have to continue the milk in the bucket as she is a sim x holstein/jer and a nice calf that I hope to keep for a future beef cow. But I want her to grow and milk and grain is the way, since she can't figure out going way down low for a teat when it is so easy to just suck up a bucket of milk. I will just have to get a couple more calves that have never been in a bucket to go on the cow.

Good luck with the calves, there is no one way that works for everyone, and not even do things work every time for the same person.
 
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lms0229

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Update: 2 of the 4 bottle calves will nibble on fresh grass...but they don’t want to touch the hay. 1 calf seems to like the grain and the others seem only curious about it. I have been putting some of the starter in their mouths and that does seem to help. I need to try the milk replacer powder sprinkled on top and get the non-pellet starter. I asked at the feed store for a non-pellet and they told me that all calf starter is a pellet :roll: SO..... can someone provide me the brand they use that is not in pellet form??? Any other tips y’all have found on weaning these little gals early?
 

farmerjan

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Try any feed that is a sweet feed. Our feed mill makes a calf starter that is 14% . It has grains and some pellets but it has molasses on it and makes it sweet smelling. If you can get them to try a sweet feed, then you can add in the pellets til they are back on just a pellet feed. Your feed store must have some sort of a sweet feed. Some places call it textured feed. Tell 'em you want a feed with molasses on it.
 

backhoeboogie

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They blast me here for saying this, but I wean per the almanac.

You can cut them back to 1 bottle feeding per day. Then stop when the signs are right.
 
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