Raising a bucket calf for meat?

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Love2read, Sep 11, 2014.

  1. Love2read

    Love2read Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 11, 2014
    My husband and I live on 1 acre out in the country and I've been tossing around the idea of getting a bucket calf(bull) to raise up for meat. My husband works at a dairy farm up the road, so we have easy access to cheap calves and supplies. I have a few questions though...

    1) Will half an acre be enough space to grow out the calf(we would fence in the back half of the yard)?
    2) What is the best age to butcher?
    3) What is the best age to neuter(my friend raises livestock and said that bulls should be neutered or it will ruin the flavor of their meat)?

    Like I said, we're just tossing around the idea. If we DO go through with it, it won't be until Spring. Assuming it's even possible with our limited space.
     
  2. cassie

    cassie Overrun With Chickens

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    Half acre is plenty of room. You will have to feed the calf though. I fed mine all the hay they would eat and a fair amount of grain. I fed a lot of grain the last couple of months before butcher. A good butchering age is about 14 months or so. Castrating makes the calf easier to handle and he will finish better. Sooner is better. The earlier it is done, the easier it is on the calf. Contrary to what your friend told you there is nothing whatever wrong with beef from young bulls. Bulls generally don't finish out quite as well as steers and the beef from bulls is leaner and denser than the beef from steers.
     
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Half acre would be enough to house the animal, but not enough to only support him, feed-wise, especially toward the end. Not knowing what type of graze you have makes it difficult to say exactly. You'll likely have to supplement with hay, and grain per your preference.

    The nice thing about getting a fall calf is the timing...they're smaller and eat less during the winter, when you usually have to purchase the majority of their feed. As they grow, the grass comes on, making him cheaper to feed. Then, when the grass dies off in the fall, it's time to butcher [​IMG]. I strongly suggest making the appointment with your butcher a few months in advance, to get a time good for you.
     
  4. Cowgirl71

    Cowgirl71 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Like Cassie and Donrae said, 1/2 an acre would give him a nice roomy pen, but by the time he's 6 months old or so he'll likely have it nipped down to the dirt. He'll need to be on hay, and supplemented with grain if that's what interests you. Cows also love grass-clippings from a bagger mower (assuming of course that the lawn is free of pesticides and other chemicals), so that can be a free "feed" that you'd otherwise throw away. We had a milk cow one time who would come trotting over to the fence every time she heard the bagger mower start up, LOL. The pasture was plenty lush, she just loved the pre-chewed no-work buffet, LOL.

    We butcher at about 14-15 months. Spring calves get butchered at the end of the fall grass season (November 1st-ish), and fall calves get butchered at the end of the spring grass season (really varies by year, but usually June 1st-ish).

    Studies have shown that castrating early improves the tenderness and marbling of the meat and is also less traumatic for the calf, so we like to castrate as early as possible.
     
  5. Love2read

    Love2read Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you all SO much!!! I was dubious about whether or not it'd be do-able, but am so glad to hear that it's possible! :D

    I have a friend who has a farm and grows her own hay and she said she'd be willing to do a trade of hay/feed in exchange for meat when he gets butchered, so the cost would be very minimal, hopefully. :) She also offered to take him(in exchange for us getting meat back, of course) if we end up biting off more than we can chew, lol.

    I've already got a fall project going(setting up concrete block garden beds throughout the front yard), so setting up a calf pen and fencing off the back yard will have to be the winter project. :) We want Nigerian Dwarf goats too(just a couple girls for milk), so a fence will be going up either way. This just gives me more incentive!

    Btw, would the calf get along with the goats? Or would they need to stay separate?

    We had goats in the past, but had to move from NC to OH and couldn't bring them with us. :'( Life simply isn't complete without them!
     
  6. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    Goats and calves get along pretty well until the steer is about twice their size. One more piece of advice -if your are getting a dairy breed bull calf you will want to get him castrated immediately. The dairy owner might even own a 'banding tool' and band him before you bring him home.

    Having colostrum the first three days of his life is also good!
     
  7. Love2read

    Love2read Out Of The Brooder

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    My friend has a banding tool, so I could bring him to her or do it myself(if I ask nicely to borrow it ;) ). I helped her do a few goats the other day. Seems pretty straight forward.

    The calves at the farm are only given colostrum twice(once when they're born and again 6-12 hours later), so if we got a calf I'd want to get it right away and then see if the manager would let us buy some of the extra colostrum(they usually have extra that gets thrown out each day).

    I worked at the farm in the maternity area for a while and now my husband is working in maternity as well(he was working in the milking parlor and driving the skidloader before that), so raising a newborn calf is something we could both do with our eyes closed, lol. It's the "once it's weaned" part that we're clueless about. :p

    The cows at the farm are scared to death of people, which makes them seem stupid, but when you're watching from a distance you can see just how sweet and curious they really are. They're so absolutely loving and trusting with the cats that hang out there. It's kinda touching. <3 So it makes me curious to see how it will be to have a hand-raised baby. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2014
  8. Cowgirl71

    Cowgirl71 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have goats and often times we keep them in the same pasture as the cattle and they do just fine together. Only exception being with new little babies, there's too much risk in a little kid getting injured or killed by accident. But half-grown and adult goats will do just fine with the calf, especially if the calf can grow up with goats. I would definitely get the calf dehorned though. Not just for the goats, but for your sake as well. Being bottle fed, the calf will have no fear of you. He will get playful at times, which will get less and less "cute" the bigger he gets. By the time he's 700 pounds or so with horns that are several inches long and is acting "playful" it won't be cute anymore at all.

    Enola has two very good points. Please do make sure to castrate him, dairy bulls are notorious for having attitude. Jersey bulls in particular are often the most dangerous animal on the farm. To this day the most dangerous/fiesty/never turn your back on him animal we've ever had was a 400 pound polled yearling Jersey bull. He was more dangerous than any of the 2000+ pound Angus bulls we've had.

    Colostrum is very important for long-term health. I would also suggest, if possible, feeding him with raw milk from the dairy. He will grow SO much better than if you feed him with powdered milk replacer, and will also be MUCH healthier. And try not to microwave it or heat it up too hot, it will kill all the good stuff and also reduce the nutritional value of the milk.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2014
  9. Love2read

    Love2read Out Of The Brooder

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    I'm loving all this awesome information you guys are throwing my way! I'm soaking it up like a sponge, thank you! :D

    I didn't even think about the horns(so used to working around heifers >_<). How soon do they get their horns in to where they can be removed? I'm not liking the mental picture I'm getting of a 700lb fully-horned bull "playing" with me, lol.

    Do the Jersey bulls tend to only be aggressive when intact or is aggression still an issue even when they're castrated?

    Our plan was to band him as soon as we get him(so within his first couple days of life). Hopefully that hells nip it in the bud right off the bat!

    I'll have to talk to the manager and see if we can work something out to get milk from them. They throw out all the "bad" milk(from fresh and sick cows). Would that be safe for him or is it a bad idea because of the potential bacteria and medicines in it? It's what they normally give the newborn bulls after day 1 and until they're sold a few days later.

    That milk would be free, if it's safe. Otherwise, maybe they'd let us buy the good stuff.
     
  10. Cowgirl71

    Cowgirl71 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We often use the bands. Pretty easy. Just make sure not to put the band too high up, you want there to be enough skin to close up the wound quickly.

    You probably already know this, but most bottle calves have a certain look to them that they never out grow. They're often runty/stunted, have a big gut, skinny butt and shoulders, and shaggy unhealthy-looking hair. You take them to a sale barn and the buyers can pick them out in a heartbeat and dock them because they know that they'll never perform the same as a dam-raised calf. I'm going to share my opinion on raising calves, feel free to ignore it if you like. I find it worth mentioning only because we've had several people who have raised cattle for a long long time who were totally amazed at how our bottle fed calves looked as good or better than their dam-raised half siblings of the same age. I remember one calf in particular, an Angus steer. A buyer came to pick up our spring calves and was amazed when we told him - as it was taking an extra 15 seconds to convince this tame people-friendly calf to go down the chute and into the trailer - that this calf, one of the very glossiest, biggest, meatiest ones, was in fact a bottle fed.

    Here's our regimen....

    Day 1 - Give the calf as much colostrum as he'll take, 4-6 times a day
    Day 2 - Mix the colostrum and regular whole milk 50/50 and give him as much as he'll take, 4-6 times a day.
    Day 3 - Mix colostrum and regular raw whole milk 25/75 and give him as much as he'll take, 4 times a day.
    Days 4-7 - Give the calf raw whole milk, as much as he wants, 3-4 times a day.
    Days 8-30 - Give the calf raw whole milk, as much as he wants, 3 times a day (early morning, mid-day, last thing before you go to bed).
    Days 31-90 - Give the calf raw whole milk, as much as he wants, up to 3 quarts a feeding, 2 times a day (every 12 hours, so like 7am and 7pm).

    Start offering some free-choice hay. Do not introduce the hay too much earlier than 3 months or he can easily become pot-bellied due to lack of protein, which is really bad if you're raising him for beef. You can also start offering him grain now, if you'd like (we raise grassfed beef, so obviously we don't). Many people make the mistake of starting them on grain as early as 6 weeks which, again, makes them pot-bellied, because they're too young to be eating anything other than milk and maybe nibbling on grass now and then. A cow's system is not meant to eat anything other than milk and
    grass/hay. Giving them grain is not healthy for them, but especially prior to three months old.

    Days 91-180 - Give the calf raw whole milk, 2 quarts in the morning and 2 quarts in the evening, or more if it is fairly inexpensive (he'll get bigger faster with more milk of course). If you're limiting him like this make sure of course that he has free choice hay.
    Day 181 and on - Give the calf 2 quarts once a day for several days, and then 1 quart once a day for a couple days, and then wean him. This is better for him and his digestive system than weaning cold turkey. You can also continue to bottle feed him for another month or longer, but I assume by this time you'll be thrilled to not have that chore anymore.

    You'll notice we don't wean our calves super-young like most people do. I think that's a big mistake, especially when you're raising a calf for beef. Weaning at 60-90 days just isn't natural and leaves them stunted and compromised and pot-bellied for life. And that scientific calf grower milk pellets stuff doesn't hold a candle to the benefits of raw milk.

    Just FYI, I've already tweaked this towards a dairy calf (versus a hungrier, stockier beef calf).

    Feel free to disregard this and raise him the way you want. This is just what works very well for us. We've also used it - with some slight modifications - for raising goat kids, which again grew as well or better than their dam-raised siblings.

    I'm really quite tired/sleepy at the moment and so will review this post tomorrow and double check that it's all correct and is free of errors and typos. I'll also address the questions in your last post. I have a date with a milk cow first thing in the morning and I don't want to be late, LOL. But I love talking cows even more than I love talking chickens!!! :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2014
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