Bottle calf....When to start weaning?

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We have a calf that is about 4 months old. Me and my husband have read multiple times or just let the calf tell you when its ready to wean. We have been going with just having her tell us when she is ready. Is this a good way to go about weaning? She does seem to want the bottle. She is also eating hay out with the other steers we have during the day. We are not sure what to do now going into winter. I also have another question.....I have read that you need to clean a calves bottom when it gets all messy from pooping and I have been doing that, I'm just wondering when I can stop.?. She is a Belted Galloway so she is pretty hairy.....could i just trim the hair in that area to help with the matting? Any help would be greatly appreciated thanks.
 

MRRherefords

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We actually just had one of our first experiences with a bottle calf and read a lot of the same things you did. What worked best with ours was to put a bowl of feed in front of it at about 3 1/2 months and let her curiosity take over. We did not take her off the bottle completely, but did decrease her milk. Over the course of the next month we increased her feed and decreased her bottle. Finally she was down to only a half a bottle a day and was relying quite heavily on feed. We then took the bottle away completely and she bawled every time she saw us for the week or two. She was totally on feed when we took her off and then went to a lot of hay and grass as well. I guess what I am saying is to get her on feed before taking it away from her and make sure to decrease the bottle, and it is probably old enough at four months to be relying on other food by now. About the poop on the rear, if it gets really matted to the point when you think there may be a problem I would zip it off. I had to do it once to ours and I used a small hand held clipper. Hope this helps and good luck with her.
 

farmerjan

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Most bottle calves are introduced to grain and hay any time after 2 weeks. In nature a calf will start to mimic momma at about 2 weeks and you will see it "grazing" which of course it isn't really eating much but it is learning what "cows do". I raise alot of calves; some on nurse cows and some bottle. I have calves that are getting into the feed trough with their momma, trying the grain by a month. And I have seen them actually eating/chewing a bit on the hay before then.
A calf should be eating 2% of it's body weight when it is weaned off milk, so that it continues to grow and not have a set back. Letting a calf dictate when it is ready to be weaned is not really reliable. I have calves that haven't wanted to be weaned at 6 months unless I push the issue. Also, too much milk and not enough concentrates and hay will cause a heifer calf to get a "fatty udder" and can actually cause her to have problems down the road.
The stomach has 4 chambers, and the roughage (hay) and grain causes the rumen to develop so that the calf can survive and thrive on grass/hay/other roughage and grain. They are designed to utilize this most efficiently. It needs to be developed early in life. Again in nature, a calf will still be nursing at 5-7 months, but they are getting very little, and they are eating grass and hay and the rumen bacteria are digesting this and turning it into fuel that the body can absorb and grow on.

Most dairy farmers are weaning their calves at 6-12 weeks; depending on their program. I like to get a calf completely off milk replacer by 12 weeks. The ones on the nurse cows will stay for about 4-5 months, but they are eating good by then. Part of it is also the expense. Good quality milk replacer is $60-75 a 50 lb bag. If you are raising very many it can be quite costly and the grain is a better investment.

Yes, you increase the grain and decrease the milk/bottle. If you are feeding alot of milk, they have no incentive to want to try much solid food either. 1/2 to 3/4 gallon milk a feeding is more than enough for most calves, and they will be chewing on anything they can find in the pen after a week or so. I cut the milk to no more than 1/2 gallon a feeding by the time they are 4-6 weeks to encourage them to try other food. Usually I will go to once a day feeding if the calf is consuming a decent amount of grain by 8 weeks; then taper off so by 12 weeks it is done with the bottle. Most dairies will allow the calf to have it free choice in the beginning, and working up to the calf getting enough and then get grain 2x a day.

The momma cow will clean the calf's butt. That said too much milk and not enough solids will cause the calf to continue to have soft manure and keep the problem going. I don't clean any butts unless they get scours and I don't want them to get scalded. If she has alot of hair I would clip it and get her on more solid feed so the manure is more solid. Occasionally, you will get a calf that is too lazy to pick up it's tail when it does manure. Again, more solid manure tends to make them naturally pick up their tail. Clip it short now, before winter, and hopefully it will not continue to be a problem as it matures.

Good luck.
 
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She is on 50/50 corn and oats with minerals now. We have been thinking of starting her on calf starter which is a better way to go.
 

Son of Butch

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Bottle fed calves usually weaned at 40-70 days. 4 months = 120 days = way past safe weaning time
Use up the milk replacer you have left and stop. Always keep clean fresh drinking water available.
Buy a 50 lb bag of 16-18% textured calf starter. (she'll eat it better than the pelleted type)
After she finishes the bag (you can buy a 2nd bag if you wish) then change her over to your corn/oats mix.
 

SPH

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We'll put out a pan of feed when the calf starts to show interest in something other than the bottle and once they show they are consistently eating that we'll cut back on the bottles. Three months is about right probably, you'll know when they are ready if you are offering something other than the bottle to them. We usually try to find a 4-H kid looking for a bottle calf project whenever we have a bottle calf as it's nice not to have the hassle that comes with a bottle calf. If its a heifer calf we usually retain ownership which benefits both us and the kid as some of these bottle calves can get pricey for the kids to buy and also gives us the option to keep the heifer too.
 

Lucky_P

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We always tried to have bottle calves weaned by 4-6 weeks; earlier the better. Milk replacer feeding is the most expensive and labor-intensive part of raising them. I'd have good quality calf-starter ration available from Day One... and would cram a handful in the calf's mouth after every feeding - and any other time I happened to be passing by.
Once they're eating about a pound and a half of grain ration per day, you can just stop the bottle and bump up grain consumption pretty rapidly.

Dairy nutritionists/rumen physiologists have been, for years, recommending AGAINST feeding hay prior to 8 weeks of age(maybe even later)... grain consumption drives rumen functional development and capacity much faster than consuming indigestible forage materials like hay.
I guess feeding hay to those younger calves is part of what causes so many of them to have that pot-bellied appearance that's so common.
 

Son of Butch

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Lucky_P":2mqajk50 said:
Dairy nutritionists/rumen physiologists have been, for years, recommending AGAINST feeding hay prior to 8 weeks of age (maybe even later)... grain consumption drives rumen functional development and capacity much faster than
consuming indigestible forage materials like hay.
... feeding hay to younger calves...causes pot-bellied appearance that's so common.
:nod: :nod:
 

farmerjan

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I have 7, one month old calves on 3 nurse cows that are already eating some grain. They are going in the feeder with their mommas, and after I turn the cows out, I put grain in there so they can pick at it when they want. This evening I turned the cows out, got a couple lbs of "sweet feed", textured type, and put it in the feeders and 3 calves went right in to get some. I haven't put any in their mouths, but again, they are mimicking the cows. They have some real "bladey" nice orchard grass hay and a couple will pull a little out and chew on it. Since they are on the nurse cows, they don't get the "hay-belly" but I like them to have it if they want it. I have found that there is a fine line to tread with high grain intake and no hay. I have seen some scour type manure and calves will sometimes actually go off feed. I believe it is acidosis, but I am not a nutritionist. I think the little bit of hay they consume helps to keep their manure firmer and gut bacteria more balanced.

Again, I am not a nutritionist. I don't believe in pushing the hay with little or no grain. I also think they tend to not get so bored with some hay to chew on, especially in small pens. But I like the way the calves look when they get milk a little longer, and have watched over the years the different baby calf rearing techniques of farmers. Milk replacer is expensive, but I am willing to spend a little more to see the calf looking sleek and well rounded. Most of the registered dairy farmers that I milk test for, that do some showing, do keep their calves on milk for up to 8-12 weeks. I also look at our beef cows, and figure that if mother nature provides for that calf to be able to nurse 5-8 months, then my feeding milk for 8 plus weeks while getting a bottle calf going good on grain isn't all wrong.
 

Son of Butch

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You have the right to pamper yours and spend your money any way you want.

Back in the day, I saw for myself a Holstein bull way over a year of age (he later went on to the World Dairy Expo)
being given a 2.5 gallon pail of milk after the evening milking. He got milk twice a day. Yes he looked fantastic,
but it did not improve his genetic merit one bit. A real farmer would go broke raising every animal in that manner.
 

farmerjan

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Can't imagine giving a yearling bull milk like that !!!!! Talk about spoiled!! I am sure he looked fantastic and no, you are right that it wouldn't improve his genetics one bit. Some of the farmers I test for had followed the trend to wean sooner, and I mean 4-5 weeks. After a year or two, most felt that it was not giving them the benefits that they wanted and the calves just weren't as well grown out as they could have been. Most all have gone back to the 7-8 week range and I think that has worked best for most. And I am talking farms that have 75-80 lb milk average, so they are good farmers.
I remember raising some veal for sale and had a good market for the calves. They were getting 4-5 gallons of milk A FEEDING up until they were nearly 4 months old. But I also gave them some straw for bulk and the veal was light pink rather then pure white. That is actually making them iron deficient; but that is what the market dictated. They were so tender you could cut it with a fork. I think veal has no taste, so I didn't keep on with the program after about 2 years.
Think how good beef calves look at 5-8 months being weaned off a cow. I have some heifers that are about 7-8 months, ready to wean and they are some of the nicest I have ever had. We had good grass until late in the summer when it stopped raining. But you sure can't justify raising a dairy calf like that, I agree. And some of the heifers can get too fat like that in my opinion.
 

TCRanch

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farmerjan":1bu9xs0a said:
I also look at our beef cows, and figure that if mother nature provides for that calf to be able to nurse 5-8 months, then my feeding milk for 8 plus weeks while getting a bottle calf going good on grain isn't all wrong.
I may have given her a bottle a little longer than 8+ weeks ;-) .

 

Lucky_P

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I'll admit to feeding a good heifer on the bottle on out to around 8 weeks, even after she was consuming calf starter ration well...especially if she was potentially going to stay here... but steers... they don't get that luxury; once they were eating their pound and a half of grain ration per day... the bottle stopped and they got more grain, rapidly increasing their feeding level to 5#/day.
 
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Lots of good information! Thank you all. Today is the last bottle she will be getting. She is eating 3# of calf starter now....she loves the stuff.
 

Falcon

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Most bottle calves are introduced to grain and hay any time after 2 weeks. In nature a calf will start to mimic momma at about 2 weeks and you will see it "grazing" which of course it isn't really eating much but it is learning what "cows do". I raise alot of calves; some on nurse cows and some bottle. I have calves that are getting into the feed trough with their momma, trying the grain by a month. And I have seen them actually eating/chewing a bit on the hay before then.
A calf should be eating 2% of it's body weight when it is weaned off milk, so that it continues to grow and not have a set back. Letting a calf dictate when it is ready to be weaned is not really reliable. I have calves that haven't wanted to be weaned at 6 months unless I push the issue. Also, too much milk and not enough concentrates and hay will cause a heifer calf to get a "fatty udder" and can actually cause her to have problems down the road.
The stomach has 4 chambers, and the roughage (hay) and grain causes the rumen to develop so that the calf can survive and thrive on grass/hay/other roughage and grain. They are designed to utilize this most efficiently. It needs to be developed early in life. Again in nature, a calf will still be nursing at 5-7 months, but they are getting very little, and they are eating grass and hay and the rumen bacteria are digesting this and turning it into fuel that the body can absorb and grow on.

Most dairy farmers are weaning their calves at 6-12 weeks; depending on their program. I like to get a calf completely off milk replacer by 12 weeks. The ones on the nurse cows will stay for about 4-5 months, but they are eating good by then. Part of it is also the expense. Good quality milk replacer is $60-75 a 50 lb bag. If you are raising very many it can be quite costly and the grain is a better investment.

Yes, you increase the grain and decrease the milk/bottle. If you are feeding alot of milk, they have no incentive to want to try much solid food either. 1/2 to 3/4 gallon milk a feeding is more than enough for most calves, and they will be chewing on anything they can find in the pen after a week or so. I cut the milk to no more than 1/2 gallon a feeding by the time they are 4-6 weeks to encourage them to try other food. Usually I will go to once a day feeding if the calf is consuming a decent amount of grain by 8 weeks; then taper off so by 12 weeks it is done with the bottle. Most dairies will allow the calf to have it free choice in the beginning, and working up to the calf getting enough and then get grain 2x a day.

The momma cow will clean the calf's butt. That said too much milk and not enough solids will cause the calf to continue to have soft manure and keep the problem going. I don't clean any butts unless they get scours and I don't want them to get scalded. If she has alot of hair I would clip it and get her on more solid feed so the manure is more solid. Occasionally, you will get a calf that is too lazy to pick up it's tail when it does manure. Again, more solid manure tends to make them naturally pick up their tail. Clip it short now, before winter, and hopefully it will not continue to be a problem as it matures.

Good luck.
A friend told me that they had actually had better luck with whole milk (just bought from the store) than they did with milk replacer. What are you thoughts on this?
 

farmerjan

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It is a tossup. I use ONLY all-milk milk replacer and do good with it. I have a friend that uses only whole milk from the store. But most of the calves I raise are grafted on a nurse cow so it is a moot point for me. If I have a bottle calf now, and a milking cow, then they get natural raw milk from the cow. Most dairies that I test milk for use milk from the bucket cows. Several have gone to pasteurization of the bucket cow milk due to it often being from cows that have a high cell count or mastitis... but many still feed it just plain, raw milk.
Store bought milk is also pasteurized so not alot of germs to get through. I have no problem with it if it works for you. I am not sure of the difference in cost between milk replacer and store milk. I do buy the very best milk replacer that I can because if they don't like it it won't do any good. And if it is soy based you may as well expect the calf to #1, not like the taste; and #2, not do well on it as they cannot assimilate the protein from the soy.... they will scour and have stinking smelling manure and just not do as well. It ought to be outlawed in my opinion...
 

cowmom76

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Most bottle calves are introduced to grain and hay any time after 2 weeks. In nature a calf will start to mimic momma at about 2 weeks and you will see it "grazing" which of course it isn't really eating much but it is learning what "cows do". I raise alot of calves; some on nurse cows and some bottle. I have calves that are getting into the feed trough with their momma, trying the grain by a month. And I have seen them actually eating/chewing a bit on the hay before then.
A calf should be eating 2% of it's body weight when it is weaned off milk, so that it continues to grow and not have a set back. Letting a calf dictate when it is ready to be weaned is not really reliable. I have calves that haven't wanted to be weaned at 6 months unless I push the issue. Also, too much milk and not enough concentrates and hay will cause a heifer calf to get a "fatty udder" and can actually cause her to have problems down the road.
The stomach has 4 chambers, and the roughage (hay) and grain causes the rumen to develop so that the calf can survive and thrive on grass/hay/other roughage and grain. They are designed to utilize this most efficiently. It needs to be developed early in life. Again in nature, a calf will still be nursing at 5-7 months, but they are getting very little, and they are eating grass and hay and the rumen bacteria are digesting this and turning it into fuel that the body can absorb and grow on.

Most dairy farmers are weaning their calves at 6-12 weeks; depending on their program. I like to get a calf completely off milk replacer by 12 weeks. The ones on the nurse cows will stay for about 4-5 months, but they are eating good by then. Part of it is also the expense. Good quality milk replacer is $60-75 a 50 lb bag. If you are raising very many it can be quite costly and the grain is a better investment.

Yes, you increase the grain and decrease the milk/bottle. If you are feeding alot of milk, they have no incentive to want to try much solid food either. 1/2 to 3/4 gallon milk a feeding is more than enough for most calves, and they will be chewing on anything they can find in the pen after a week or so. I cut the milk to no more than 1/2 gallon a feeding by the time they are 4-6 weeks to encourage them to try other food. Usually I will go to once a day feeding if the calf is consuming a decent amount of grain by 8 weeks; then taper off so by 12 weeks it is done with the bottle. Most dairies will allow the calf to have it free choice in the beginning, and working up to the calf getting enough and then get grain 2x a day.

The momma cow will clean the calf's butt. That said too much milk and not enough solids will cause the calf to continue to have soft manure and keep the problem going. I don't clean any butts unless they get scours and I don't want them to get scalded. If she has alot of hair I would clip it and get her on more solid feed so the manure is more solid. Occasionally, you will get a calf that is too lazy to pick up it's tail when it does manure. Again, more solid manure tends to make them naturally pick up their tail. Clip it short now, before winter, and hopefully it will not continue to be a problem as it matures.

Good luck.
 

The Pear Guy

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My bottle calve have always been weaned at 4-5 months. They'll be eating feed good by then.

Calves on my nurse cows get weaned when I decide they're big enough to sell.
 

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