Pulling Poor Doing Calves ?

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Stocker Steve

Well-known member
May 2, 2005
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Central Minnesota
I have a few mothers every year who milk far below average. Some of their calves learn to steal well, but most are poor doers who will never amount to much if left on the cow. What is the preferred age to pull these calves before they get stunted?
Pull as baby calves and sell them; seems like the baby calf market is good most places. Put them on a nurse cow if you have some; then ship the cows as cull cows. If you do some "trading" many will sell the cows as bred at a cow sale. Most stockyards will have occasional bred cow sales throughout the year. It is always buyer beware, but if I have a cow that doesn't do real good, she will get put with her calf at a pasture where she will not be bred back and the pair will go in the fall ( or spring); split with the calf as a feeder and the cow as a cull. Or the calf will come off and go on a nurse cow and the cow will get sht canned as a cull. Don't keep them, invest in a couple of good cows to replace them or better yet, keep a few heifers out of your best producing cows so you are perpetuating the good genetics and upgrading your herd through selective breeding/replacement.
I just pulled one that was six weeks old, and have another that is questionable.
Can you turn one around at that age, or are they already stunted?
Stocker Steve":1we7s4zv said:
I just pulled one that was six weeks old, and have another that is questionable.
Can you turn one around at that age, or are they already stunted?

Steve I'm far from the expert on this so this advice may be worth exactly what it costs you.

I would either A) Creep feed calf if it was possible until about 3 months old then wean and sell around 350 lbs w/ momma cow. B) Pen cow/calf together and feed both until calf was eating good and then wean at around 350 lbs and sell both. Option C is to pen both for a couple of weeks to a month and sell as a pair. Just my :2cents: I have some every year as well. It's inevitable.
I hate to say it but best thing to do is cut your losses and sell as a pair. If the mama is that bad sxlebarn will split them to bring more. Next option would be what JMJ suggested pen them and feed them together till the calf gets bigger. This can become costly and time consuming though.
I used to have a few poor doers from purchased heifers. Quit that.
I used to have a few poor doers from cows that had gotten too old. Quit that.
I still get an occasional poor doer from a sick or injured cow. Can't really represent that kind as a pair.
Had not considered penning. Thanks for the tip.
If you are talking about young calves that just don't get a good start for whatever reason .... I'm terrible with this. I always try to get them started but really don't want to run a dairy and hate throwing money at a problem I can't fix. Sometimes I give them to a friend that has a milk cow. He does pretty good growing doodlers like this but says it takes 3 make any money. 1 for cow up keep, 1 to pay for the grain, and 1 to make a little $$. Luckily I only had 1 this year, did what I could for the little guy but he just never caught ahold. I always write the cow down on cull list but don't always cull her, sometimes it just the calf.
Poor doing calves and their mothers go to the sale. The sale barn can split them or sell as a pair. That is entirely up to those people. I am not investing my time or money into poor doers. It is simply produce or be gone. It seems to me that cows which have those poor doing calves will do it again. Maybe not next year but it will happen. Those poor doing calves cost me money. I am not in this business to give cows a happy home for life.
In my opinion..., 6 weeks is probably the hardest age to pull a calf and get it to do much. Not really big enough/ready to wean and go on all feed and hay, too old to put over on a bottle, but it still would benefit from milk. I would put the cow in a small lot with the calf and supplement with feed and the calf will start eating more feed if it is not getting enough milk from the cow. Then in a few weeks when it is eating more, it will continue to eat when you pull the cow.
My oldest nurse cow went off feed right about when her calf was 6 weeks and she had 2 others on her. Long story short, she has tumors and the vet gave her a VERY POOR chance to live out the week. After about 2 days, she perked up so we went the Dex route as a steroid to see if I could get her past what I consider the awkward stage of 6 weeks. I pulled the one calf I had put over on her because it had been a bottle calf and was older when I grafted it on her. It was eating grain and hay pretty good, so just left her own calf and the other one that was 3 days old when I put it on with her own.
That was nearly a month ago. She has rallied, has had dex a couple of times when she seems a little slow or walking like she is hurting. She is raising the 2, out grazing, and getting grain once a day. The calves look much better than they did at 6 weeks and are coming in the creep gate for some grain also. I am very glad that I tried to keep her going past that 6 week period because the calves would have suffered. I didn't have another nurse cow to switch them over to or I would have and I would have put her down. Since she has rallied, she will get to have as much time as she can until she gets in bad shape and then I will put her down.
So, I would put a poor doer with her calf on a little "increased ration" if the calf is at that stage and get it eating more. But I normally will pull the calf as a baby if the cow doesn't seem to be making much milk...and they don't get a second chance to be a poor producer again.

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