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Nurse Cows Save Baby Calves
Howard and Dale Thome, Viola, Kan., buy 3 to 7 day old calves from local dairy producers, growing the cattle to 1,150 to 1,200 lbs. to sell direct to consumers in their local area.
The problem was that they were raising about 100 baby calves per year with about a 15 percent death loss, after starting them on milk replacer. "When weather turned wet, calves just couldn't develop or maintain immunity to diseases," Howard says. "Probiotics helped, but not enough."
Recently they solved the problem by switching to the real thing by using two low-producing Holstein cows to raise 60 calves and lost just two calves (less than a 4 percent loss).
Calves remain on the cows for about 6 wks. and nurse morning and evening until starting on grain after about 3 wks. After that calves are with cows once a day. At that point one cow can nurse up to 8 calves per day - one group of four in the morning and four more in the evening. Getting milk just once a day encourages calves to eat more grain, promotes faster growth, and keeps per-calf production costs down by increasing the number of calves produced per cow annually, Howard reports. Calves are healthier and faster-growing, and even if they get sick they're easier to keep alive.
He figures the two nurse cows saved some $2,400 in milk replacer bills last year while consuming no more than $800 in feed (15 lbs. grain per day and haylage).
Protein supplements stop once calves are 3 months old. Straw is fed free-choice to older steers on full feed. He reports gains of up to 3 lbs. per day on free-choice whole shelled corn and alfalfa. (Sensible Agriculture)

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1992 - Volume #16, Issue #1