Weaning bottle calves

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Lucky_P

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Feeding milk replacer is the most expensive and labor-intensive part of raising 'em. I want 'em off the bottle ASAP... preferrably by 4 weeks, absolutely by 6 weeks. Don't think I ever fed one out to 8 weeks, much less 10.
Every time I would feed - or even just pass by the calves, I'd cram a handful of calf-starter ration in their mouths. When they're eating 1.5 lbs/day... you can stop the bottle and rapidly increase their grain ration intake.
Dairy heifer producers, anymore, are not allowing any hay or grazing before 8 weeks, some even later than that. Grain-based calf-starter rations actually do a better job of promoting rumen development than hay or grass - which they can't really digest - that's why a lot of bottle calves that are being allowed free choice hay or grass early on get that potbellied appearance - they've got a rumen full of roughage that they can't really digest - and it's 'diluting' out their overall nutritional intake - energy and protein-wise.
 

dun

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I run one sack of milk replacer through them and if they are eating a couple of pounds of grain a day I just cut them off the replacer cold turkey.
 

TCRanch

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Never? Just kidding. I'm a sucker & this was an abandoned twin that I bottle fed until she was 4 months old. Unfortunately she prolapsed with her 1st calf & this was her reward for letting me remove her stitches in the middle of the pasture (in one end & out another :)).
 

Air gator

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It depends on whether you are buying to sell right away. If you are keeping them as replacements then they really benefit from staying on the milk longer. Calves benefit from the high protein in the milk. I use the 20 percent protein with 20 percent fat. There isn't any feed with those numbers. Cows don't wean a calf at 2 months naturally. To me, the longer you have them on the milk the better they will grow. They do sell a milk replacer with 28 percent protein that allows you to wean earlier because they grow faster. By the way, I always use the buckets that you can hang on a gate or panel.
 
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Lucky_P

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I'll agree, gator.
Dairy heifers, or even crossbred or beef heifers that I thought *might* have a chance at staying here as a replacement... I didn't mind bottle-feeding a bit longer, and I'll admit, I usually fed heifers out to 6 weeks... but steers... I wanted those suckers off the bottle and eating feed ASAP.
 

Luckiamute

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I really like to bottle feed for at least 12 weeks, sometimes as long as 16 weeks depending on the situation. Yes, it is time consuming and an added expense, but I find the reward at the end is a calf that will be larger and healthier -- and that's from personal experience. One of the keys is to feed the best quality milk replacer you can find -- high protein, high fat and all milk protein ingredients with no soy as an ingredient. I'm currently having to feed a purebred Angus heifer whose mom had to be put down due to an injury suffered just before she gave birth. It's been 13 weeks and this heifer has kept up growth-wise with two other calves born within a week of her birthdate. I just cut her back to one feeding a day and will do that for three more weeks before weaning her off the bottle. Some of the best advice I was given many years ago was from my vet who said you want to do what the calf's mom would have done -- multiple feedings every day, especially early on, then slowly eliminate a feeding. Most cattlemen and cattlewomen don't wean calves at 8 weeks in nature, so if you have the time to feed longer, it should pay dividends. Good luck!
 
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Lucky_P

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No, we don't usually wean calves off the cow at 4, 6, 8, or even 12-13 weeks... but they're on the cow, and she's doing the work, paying the bill.
If you love feeding the bottle, go for it... I guarantee you the calves will love drinking it.
But, it's the most expensive and labor-intensive part of raising them... I want them eating grain and forages ASAP.
Last bag of high quality milk replacer I bought was about $90. That cuts into the profit margin if you go through many of those.
 

Falcon

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I really like to bottle feed for at least 12 weeks, sometimes as long as 16 weeks depending on the situation. Yes, it is time consuming and an added expense, but I find the reward at the end is a calf that will be larger and healthier -- and that's from personal experience. One of the keys is to feed the best quality milk replacer you can find -- high protein, high fat and all milk protein ingredients with no soy as an ingredient. I'm currently having to feed a purebred Angus heifer whose mom had to be put down due to an injury suffered just before she gave birth. It's been 13 weeks and this heifer has kept up growth-wise with two other calves born within a week of her birthdate. I just cut her back to one feeding a day and will do that for three more weeks before weaning her off the bottle. Some of the best advice I was given many years ago was from my vet who said you want to do what the calf's mom would have done -- multiple feedings every day, especially early on, then slowly eliminate a feeding. Most cattlemen and cattlewomen don't wean calves at 8 weeks in nature, so if you have the time to feed longer, it should pay dividends. Good luck!
 

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