Bottle Baby question

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garnetann

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I have a bottle baby, off the bottle at about 3 months, been living in the backyard on good green grass and calf starter about 2 cups per day. She is almost 5 months old and fat as a butterball. I mean fat, when I compare her to the calves out to the pasture, she is round. She eats well, poops good, no problems, just fat. My plan is to put her out with the rest of the spring calves when we wean them in about a month. I did not want to send her out before them because she would not have any friends, this way, she will be with all the weaning calves. My question is about her being fat, am I doing something wrong? Should I be giving her different grain, no grain, more grain? Is she just fat because she is waited on and does not have to go very far for her food or water? More exercise...? Just want to make sure I am not doing something bad for her in allowing her to be so fat...
Thanks!
 

Lucky_P

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Guess my first thought is...are you confusing 'fat' with a 'grass belly'?

Granted, you kept that calf on the bottle 2-3 times longer than I'd have fed one - I want 'em weaned at 4 weeks, 6 weeks max; once they're eating 1.5 lbs of calf starter/day, the bottle stops and I pretty rapidly increase starter/grower ration to at least 5 lb/day.
2 cups of calf starter per day is not making this calf 'fat'.
 
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garnetann

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yes, grass belly is a good description. she looks normal everywhere, but a big fat belly. would more feed lessen the amount of grass she eats?
 

Lucky_P

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It's a common problem with folks raising bottle calves, especially if they're 'newbies' or don't really have an understanding of ruminant development and nutrition.
They're ruminants, right? Designed to eat grass, right? Well, not early on... it takes weeks/months for them to develop rumen function, and to be able to extract sufficient nutrients from forages... so, if they're not getting sufficient energy/protein in their diet, you end up with a stunted, big-bellied calf.
Most of the info available is slanted toward development of dairy heifers - but if you treat your dairy steers - and beef calves - in the same manner, at least until they're 5-6 months of age, they tend to perform better (though, in my experience, Holsteins almost always work better as bottle calves than do beef calves, even if you treat 'em the same).
Not having seen your calf - but I've seen plenty! - and from what you've told us, I think you've not been feeding sufficient starter/grower ration to get good rumen development and adequate nutrition for optimal growth. I'd prefer a 'bottle calf' be eating at least 4-5 pounds of grain ration per day before I introduced hay or allowed significant access to high-quality grazing - otherwise they're gonna be filling up on forage materials that they can't adequately process, and you run into poor performance due to lack of energy/protein to drive growth. Most recent nutritional research strongly suggests that grain-based starter/grower rations do a much better job of driving rumen development in those young calves than does access to hay/grazing.

Lots of stuff out there on the 'net - again, it's mainly aimed at dairy heifer development, but the basic tenets are the same, even if you're raising beef calves. Here's one for starters:
http://afsdairy.ca.uky.edu/extension/nu ... terweaning
 

regolith

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to someone accustomed to looking at dairy cattle a calf raised like this may well look fat... my calves look fat compared to a lot of dairy calves around them.
Real fat is seen across the tailhead and hips, not just a round belly. The coat should also be glossy - potbelly that I've seen is usually accompanied by a dull coat.
And no, at this age on a predominantly grass diet I don't think they can be too fat, and if she is she'll soon adjust when she's in a group with other weaners.

Lucky, 12 weeks is the weaning age I aim at if there's no grain involved. At that age they seem able to eat top quality grass with no growth check. And I do mean 'top quality'.
 

Lucky_P

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rego,
Raised a bunch of Holstein steers - and heifers - back in the past; was not in the dairy business, just a calf-raiser.
Feeding milk replacer is the most expensive and labor-intensive part of getting those calves going. I wanted 'em off the bottle as quickly as possible. Most steers would be eating enough grain by 4 weeks that I could stop bottle feeding and bump up their grain ration.
I will admit that I usually bottle-fed the heifers out to 6 weeks (I just like heifers better, I guess) before I cut 'em off. Don't know how mine panned out in the milking string, as I usually sold 'em as bred heifers - but they looked better than some of the rough-coated pot-bellied things I saw some of my dairy clients raising.
 

TexasBred

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Lucky_P":33zg16u6 said:
rego,
Raised a bunch of Holstein steers - and heifers - back in the past; was not in the dairy business, just a calf-raiser.
Feeding milk replacer is the most expensive and labor-intensive part of getting those calves going. I wanted 'em off the bottle as quickly as possible. Most steers would be eating enough grain by 4 weeks that I could stop bottle feeding and bump up their grain ration.
I will admit that I usually bottle-fed the heifers out to 6 weeks (I just like heifers better, I guess) before I cut 'em off. Don't know how mine panned out in the milking string, as I usually sold 'em as bred heifers - but they looked better than some of the rough-coated pot-bellied things I saw some of my dairy clients raising.

We weaned dairy heifers and bull calves at 6 weeks but were using fresh milk right out of the pipeline. At that age they are eating more than enough starter ration to not need any more milk. Removed from the pens, wormed and put in a pasture with a creep feeder with a grower ration. With beef calves nursing the cow they're usually grazing and ruminating at less than 30 days but still need the milk.
 

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