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Author Topic: Calf advice please  (Read 522 times)


  • Joined Oct 2018
Calf advice please
« on: November 11, 2018, 05:00:27 pm »
Hello all,

Im thinking of raising some dairy calves possibly friesians or jerseys from perhaps a week old to weaning.  :excited:

How often would i have to feed them (presumably milk) but unsure what formula etc...? and anything else..??
Any hints and tips would be welcomed please. I have a 75sqm barn to house them in with a water supply although half would be used to house feed and bedding etc and other things

Also could i use sheep hurdles to pen them...would this work or pallets as a cheaper option maybe

Would/could this be a profitable venture?

Sorry i probably sound rlly dumb but i am a complete newbie as far as cows etc go...  :thinking: :eyelashes:

Any advice would be great.

Thank you v much
Voss Electric Fence


  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Calf advice please
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2018, 05:38:18 pm »
Calves need milk twice a day, local agricultural store will have milk powder that is mixed with water. They need calf pellets and straw until weaning.

Where would you source them from? A high health herd is imperative as otherwise you risk buying in BVD and other nasty diseases.

What are you going to do with them once they are weaned off milk? Store cattle trade is down at the moment, black and white stores the price is very low. Where in the country are you, as this will dictate how often they must be TB tested (anything from annually to 4 yearly), and they will need pre movement testing to move off your holding if going anywhere bar direct to the abattoir. You’ll need appropriate handling facilities (crush) to do this.

You might be better off spending more money and buying some beef x dairy calves, Hereford, Angus, Limousin or Blue out of dairy cows. They would show more profit and value for money in the long term compared to pure Friesian.

Is the barn well ventilated? Calves are very prone to pneumonia at such a young age.

Sheep hurdles would probably do to start but as they get bigger they might need something more substantial to hold them in!

Good luck if you decide to go for it


  • Joined Oct 2018
Re: Calf advice please
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2018, 06:12:58 pm »
Hello twizzel

Thanks for the food clarification. :)
I have a cattle market fairly near me...Salisbury cattle market..although could this be a potential source of disease. Should i purchase from a farmer direct via farmings ads or preloved etc. The market is quite fussy about keeping everything clean but not sure... :-\

Im in winchester, hampshire area

I could then sell through this market maybe..?

It is a pole barn with corrugated sheeting round the bottom and slatting up top and a concreted floor.

It has an open front so should be ventilated enough, (but maybe too exposed for calves?)

Thanks will use sheep hurdles to start with. What is involved in pre movement testing. Could i build my own crush for this?

Thank you


  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Calf advice please
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2018, 07:26:23 pm »
For tb test you’ll have to restrain the animal for the vet to clip 2 patches on their neck and inject tuberculin. So you might be able to do it with a gate but you’ll need to make sure the vet and yourselves are safe.

Buy direct from farm if possible and make sure their colostrum management is top notch, and the herd is free of BVD, Johnes, IBR.

Go to the market and see the calves and what they are selling for and the age that they are being sold at. You might be better waiting and letting the store price stabilise again.


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Calf advice please
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2018, 07:26:47 pm »
I think you’ll find that rearing pure dairy calves is a specialist job and you’re unlikely to be able to make it pay.  See if you can find the sort of thing you’d be selling, at the age you’d be selling it, getting sold, and see what they fetch.

If you’ve a market for rose veal meat, you might find that works better - take them all the way to slaughter and butchering.  If you have some land you can use, that is. 

You would, as twizzel says, do much better with beef cross calves.  But again, there’s not much money to be made in the first few months; the people that make it pay have land and take them up to 14 months, or finish them.  And even at 14 months, folk won’t pay good money if they don’t know the producer, and so be sure they’re getting a well-reared animal that will finish well.

If you do decide to give it a go, my advice would be to buy nothing younger than one month old, at least until you’ve done it a few times and know what you’re doing.  (If they’re going to die, they usually do it in the first few weeks ;) ). The extra cost of slightly older calves will more than pay for the loss of a younger one.

Basically the process is :

Milk powder as per the bag, usually three times a day up to one month old then twice a day until the bag is finished.  (One sack per calf, usually takes them to around three months.)

Bed on clean straw, give them some fresh every day.  (On top of the old.). They’ll play with it, eat some, and lie on it.  It’s essential they eat stemmy forage from very early on to get the rumen to develop properly.  My ex-BH (very experienced cattle farmer, and had been rearing calves on a bucket for fifty years, as well as breeding his own) used to give them a little lovely fresh soft hay every day too.

Calf crunch or a starter calf feed should be offered from about six weeks.  Again, they’ll play with it at first but will get used to it and start to love it.  You want them to be eating it well before you wean them.

They’ll lick at each other’s navels after feeding and can cause real damage.  Best to clean their faces up when they’ve finished their milk, and distract them until they forget they were drinking milk.  So giving them their fresh straw after their milk is a good tactic.  And once they’re eating pellets, you can give them a little of that after milk to distract them - but not much at that time, just enough to take their minds off milk.

Once past the first month, pneumonia and bloat are the two biggest risks.  Pneumonia is a factor of housing and cleanliness, bloat is all about feeding.  There’s lots of info on here about developing rumens and overfilling milk stomachs, also introducing young ruminants to grass.  (Look in Sheep too.)

Hurdles will be fine for the first month or two.  After that you really need good quality purpose made pens.  Again, the calf you will lose when it breaks its leg will pay for quite a bit of good penning.

I’d agree that buying from the mart can be risky, especially as you are a novice.  One tactic would be to go there and watch the trade a few times, see who is selling calves you like, and ask them if they’d be prepared to sell direct to you.

Oh, and get polled or dehorned castrated boys.  You don’t want hormonal girls trying to escape ;).
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing


  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Calf advice please
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2018, 06:42:20 am »
We ran a calf rearing business for several years when we went out of dairy.
Calves were bought in at 3-4 weeks old, all bulls and all dairy bred.
They were sold at 6.5 to 7 months old through the local mart.
The people buying them were the ones losing real money as by that age they can really eat and start to grow up and not out, they are hard on the housing and hormonal young thugs.
However we made far more money out of them than we did from the dairy cows.

To make this system work you need a steady flow of cattle, we had the housing to keep each fortnightly batch isolated from the others until after weaning.

Good biosecurity is a must.


  • Joined Oct 2018
Re: Calf advice please
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2018, 05:15:38 pm »
Ok thanks everyone...will probably go down the line that buttermilk was saying... but possibly wont keep them so long. :thumbsup:


  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Calf advice please
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2018, 05:50:37 pm »
I am not sure you would make much (if any) money keeping them very short term especially pure dairy bred bulls given the current store cattle/stirk market. If you're looking for a short term investment then lambs would suit better... if you are careful you can turn a profit on sheep quicker than on cattle.


  • Joined Oct 2018
Re: Calf advice please
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2018, 08:40:58 pm »
I would probably wait until next year when prices are better because not totally finished the barn etc yet. So will have to see.


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