2010-07-05

Thinking about having a calf to raise?


You see the stories in the rural columns. Calves at kids pet days and at school agdays all looking cute and healthy their proud young owners showing off their ribbons to their friends parents. It's a great thing for kids to have calves..but in my case it was me that ended up raising a total of five from 2006 until 2008. I have vowed there will be no more even though there has been a VERY unsubtle hint from my wonderful friend Gillian one more cute tiny little jersey heifer may turn up. No thanks! No more here at the Mad Bush Farm.

The Terrorist at 7 weeks

We have enough Bovine troublemakers including the Terrorist, who has her second birthday on July 29. My cows are just pets they're not useful for much as they are, and they have horns still. Painful when they stick them in your rear end. But each one has a personality and I love them all - although at times I have threatened Ocean who likes to get out and destroy my mother's garden every single time with a new home aka a dairy farm - then see how far she gets there. Grrrr. Of course Inaya would never forgive me if I got rid of her pet cow. River can't go either or the Terrorist so I guess I'm stuck with those three until they pass away of old age. Never mind.


So why am I writing this drivel then? Well it goes something like this. People new to the land sometimes get calves without actually knowing much about them - then wonder why their pet dies on them despite being well fed. Well it's because they can die if one isn't watchful. Been there and done that. Cause? Scours nasty horrible condition little calves can get when stuck straight onto milk powder or it can be caused by Rotavirus. Most dairy herds are vaccinated for Rotavirus - most people usually get 4 day old calves from dairy farms or from sales. Take my advice buy direct from a farmer if you can - avoid sales or you might find you've paid a lot of money for nothing.

  • Avoid lethargic or sick calves they will die on you
  • Avoid thinking you're going to make big profits by raising calves on a small block. They might pay the rates and give pocket money but that's it.
  • Avoid anything younger than 4 days old.
  • The Calves' cord should be dry and not wet or moist
  • Calves should have colostrum for 5 days after birth
  • Keep all utensils and bottles (or calf feeders) well sterilised.
  • Sick calves should be separated from healthy calves - call a vet
  • Use calf covers - these can be purchased from your local rural supply store
  • Provide small amounts of clean fresh hay and Fibrepro
  • Feed twice a day with warm milk mixture not cold.
  • DO NOT OVERFEED no matter how much your calf complains. Stick with the exact feed amount- no more no less.
  • Keep the shed (if you're using one) cleared out of droppings and urine daily and fresh untreated sawdust on hand.
  • Fresh grass is good for calves as well. Allow to graze outside during the day if possible.
  • Weaning should start at around 3 -4 months (depending on the calf's weight) and be done gradually with Fibrepro feed levels increased. You can also feed a specially prepared grain mixture for calves as well. Check with your Rural Supply store for recommendations.
  • Calves at one month old must be tagged under MAF Requirements
  • Ring Bull Calves at three weeks old or get a vet to do it if you're unsure.
  • Colour makes no difference - ignore the myths that black white faced calves are better than others. No they aren't.
The Terrorist at 11 days old..greedy little monkey

I've written this for New Zealand, but the same rules apply to anyone thinking about calves. Just don't do what I've done and end up with a bunch of Bovine children that think I'm their mother. The Terrorist of course is the worst one. She wasn't weaned until nearly 8 months old - but being small meant she needed that bit longer (excuses excuses) Whatever reason one decides to have when getting calves it's one heck of a comittment. Cancel those holidays for at least three months. Calves like Babies rely upon their human parents to feed and look after them. Have fun. I'm done with it all. No more calves for me (I won't hold my breath!).