Bottle Babies

Stevie, Tommy, and SpongeBob

Olivia asked to have some bottle calves this spring. (I think she’s trying to build her case for getting a horse.) These are Holstein bull calves from local dairies, which only keep their heifer calves. We get them at a day or two old.

This year they’re more expensive then we’re used to paying – about $200 each. 5 years ago when we first started doing this they were almost half that. And I’ve heard that not long before that dairy farmers simply disposed of them, because nobody wanted them.

They get a (big) bottle of milk twice a day. Olivia makes the bottles and feeds each calf, and also makes sure they have plenty of water, starter feed, hay and bedding.

They’re penned off from each other because otherwise they would suck on each others navels, which leads to infections and is also just plain annoying. Once they’re weaned they’ll get turned together and have access to pasture. We’ll sell them in the fall, probably to our neighbor who feeds them out to butchering weight. We don’t do Holstein “beef” anymore.

This summer Olivia can halter-break one and take it to the county fair, if she wants. (Halter breaking is an interesting experience, with a great variety of methods for doing so.) They have an open class bucket/bottle calf where kids from kindergarten thru sixth grade can lead their calf into the arena and answer questions from a judge. This gives them some experience before they get into 4-H livestock shows, in a non-competitive setting.

A birdseye view of bottle feeding.

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4 Responses to Bottle Babies

  1. Lynne says:

    That is so cool! What a great experience for Olivia!

  2. Bottle feeding calves was one of my favorite things to do at my step-grandparents’ farm. I didn’t realize that some farmers “disposed” of the bull calves… shouldn’t that make them a lot less expensive? Anyhoo…

  3. karl says:

    i’d like to get our kids involved in 4H too. i quincidently have started halter breaking our new calf while leading it to it’s mom to nurse twice a day. leading him away from his mom is another story. maybe he’s halter training me? probably one of the kids should be doing the lead-to-mom activity to get the program started?

  4. Farmer says:

    Is the gry/white calb a special breed or is it a charolais/Holstein cross.Here in Denmark we have a very old and rare breed called Danish Grey/white. We have less than 200 back in the whole country.Nice pictures.

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