One thing that we have loved on the farm is bottle feeding animals. We have bottle fed calves, goat kids, lambs, piglets, rabbits, and squirrels. I must say the bigger the animal the easier they are to feed. We have been without bottle babies now for a year and we have all been missing it. Another thing we have been missing is our own beef. Once you have had pastured beef the stuff in the store just won’t do it for you anymore. Last February we bought calves with the intent to raise one for beef, but they all died except my heifer calf, Tallulah. In farming, you win some you lose some, it’s just the way things are…
As I have mentioned in prior posts, Jersey Girl Dairy sells raw milk and it is some great stuff. We were looking for calves and decided to give them a call. Indeed, they did have calves, bull calves already a month old. Getting older calves is a great thing because you have made it past the most vulnerable days in the calves lives. The stress of being transported, started on milk replacer and finding themselves in a new home can be too much for a young calf. However, if you are patient and do your homework, you can buy day old calves and do very well with them. Before last February, I had a really good track record and had lost very few. The key is starting them on an electrolyte solution for the first 24 hours, then you go to milk at half strength for 24 hours- if there is no diarrhea- then you go to milk at regular strength. If diarrhea starts, you go back to electrolytes and work your way back up. I have developed my own recipe for the electrolytes that also has herbs in it to combat illness. Also of most importance, you must wash the bottles after each feeding. At the beginning I used bleach to kill any germs lurking around, but now I use vinegar. Strong vinegar kills any and all germs and bacteria without the harmful side effects.
However, with these boys being a month old, they were not bothered by the trip and had completely normal poop when we fed them their evening bottles last night. So this morning, they had milk at half strength in their bottles. Jonathan and I just returned from the evening bottle trip and the poop was normal, so starting tomorrow we will feed milk at full strength. It is better for the calves to be a bit hungry for the first 24-48 hours than to overwhelm their guts with too much change. All of us, animals included, have good and bad bacteria living in our guts to digest food and such. The key to having good and bad bacteria present is for their to be a balance- more good than bad. When stressful situations occur, the bad bacteria can multiply and get out of hand. The first indication of this is diarrhea- this accounts for my preoccupation with poop. Animals can’t tell you what is wrong you have to watch for signs and poop is an excellent indicator. By starting them on electrolytes and then milk at half strength, we are giving them time to adjust without giving their guts too much to do at first.
I was pleased with the conditions of the calves pens. Some dairy’s don’t put straw or anything else down in the little pens leaving the calves to sink up to their shins in mud and muck. These calves had clean pens and straw.
We have been using this crate that Tony built for several years now. It is great for small livestock, you don’t have to hook up a trailer for a small load. All animals we have transported, lay down and get comfy. The truck cab provides a wind block but we like to add the tarp for good measure.
Once you get the calves home you have to get them to the barn! Tony could pick one up as he was a little fellow, but this big boy was too heavy to carry to I am using a lead rope to help him along.
We have never seen this before, but this calf has lost part of his tail. Once we had him loaded in the truck, the dairy farmer’s wife noticed that he had poop dried around his tail. She went to remove it while saying that sometimes if the poop dries on and cuts off circulation that the tail can come off. Just as she finished saying this, the lower part of the tail came off in her hand. Please don’t think that these folks don’t take care of their animals, they do. However, when you have so many to take care of and manage things can get away from you. Problems with animals arise quickly and things can go too far before you know it. We almost did not buy him because of it, but he is such a well built calf that we didn’t want to pass him up. So, it was time to get out the vet supplies.
I have a body butter that I make with herbal oils that are known to help heal the skin. I mixed this body butter with Echinacea and Goldenseal to fight infection. Before I appled this to his tail I drenched the tail with iodine (otherwise known as Monkey Blood). Once I had the iodine on, I smeared a heavy coating all over his tail. It worked well, this morning it was still on and dried up nicely. To wrap it would have meant changing the dressing and chance for infection due to the fact that the wound would not have been able to breath.
The calves are kept in separate stalls. . Even though bull calves don’t have any teats (cow nipples) they do have something else that does hang down and well, baby calves will suck on anything… We learned this the hard way when we kept several calves together. Needless to say, it was disturbing and we got pens built in record time.
We are happy to have bottle babies again. This is the part of the farm and homesteading that makes all the hard work fun and worth it.