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.