Once upon a time… June, 2010 to be more precise. There was a Holstein cow on a dairy farm somewhere in Manitoba Canada, that gave birth to a set of twins. A boy and a girl. Normally that would be good news… if you weren’t trying to run a dairy farm. Their misfortune became our fortune and for a minor sum, we brought 2 cute, little 6-day old calves home.
I bottle fed them, nurtured and trained them. One winter morning the heifer calf wouldn’t get up and despite all our efforts died later that day. All we can say is, these things happen. As much as we like to think we are in control of life and death, we really aren’t. We’re only stewards.
6 days old. Cute Wallace-and-Gromit face
1 1/2 yrs old. Scary don't-wave-anything-red face
Fast forward to today. “Junior” is now a 1 1/2 year old steer. His back is at the height of my shoulder, his legs are long and his head is big! Pardon me for saying so, but how does he see anything through those googly eyes? We’re not in the habit of naming animals that we intend to raise for food, but for the sake of reference, we call him Junior. More as a term of endearment, really. But somehow that name doesn’t suit him anymore or maybe it keeps him in his place? He knows he has horns and likes to use them. I can still lead him by the halter but not very far. I’d rather not let him know he could have his own way if he wanted it.
This is not The End, not for him just yet, anyway.
Halter set as small as it would go
New, bigger halter
I’m so excited! I feel like a new mother.
I told you about the calf we were getting back in the spring. She was sure cute then, and she’s still very cute! (in my opinion) A little bigger, but still cute! She’s a purebred Dexter which is a dual purpose, miniature breed. The bottom half of the door is 4 ft. so that gives you an idea of her size. She’s 5 months old and weaned from her mamma. We worked hard getting this stall ready for her… all the comforts so I hope she’ll be happy, though we weren’t quite sure how big she would be, but it worked out fine. We opened up a ‘window’ between her stall and Happy’s so they could see each other and get to know one another. We haven’t introduced them yet, so waiting to see how that goes. She’s been very quiet, contrary to Happy’s behaviour when we brought her home. She moo’d for 4 days straight! The Dexter breed is known for their gentleness so here’s hoping we get her tamed before long.
Hubby named her Buttercup.
Isn’t cute? She doesn’t live with us yet because she’s only 10 days old but when she’s weaned, this fall, then she’ll come to live with us. She’s a dexter breed and that’s her mama in the one picture with her. She’s been disbudded so she won’t have horns like her mother. That was something that was important to me. I don’t want anymore horned animals. If you haven’t heard of dexters, they are a dual purpose breed and also are about 2/3 the size of other breeds. My plan is to raise her into a gentle milking family cow.
I know you can buy calf starter from the feed store. It comes balanced with grains, protein, vitamins and minerals for the growing calf. It also comes with chemicals and antibiotics which is why we’re raising our own calves in the first place.
In the book, “Raising a Calf for Beef” by Phyllis Hobson, there’s 3 recipes for calf starter. For me to follow one of these recipes exactly, I’d be buying up to 60 kg or 132 lbs of grain. That’s a lot of grain for 2 little calves! So I came up with an adaption to one of the recipes using a grain mix I can buy called 60/30/10 in a 20 kg (44 lb) bag. It’s 60% oats, 30% barley 10% corn and sprayed with molasses. The grains are cracked or crushed. So that’s my starting point. I used a kitchen scale for this recipe.
5 lbs of 60/30/10
½ cup molasses
2 tsp. salt
½ oz. cod liver oil
½ lb. dry milk powder
This fills a 6L or 1½ gallon pail. Which is plenty until they start to really eat it. Mixing too much is risking the grain turning mouldy before it can be used up. The calves seem to like it and it feels really good to make my own. It saves us a little money too.
We made use of the livestock trailer. We added a couple new animals to the farm – these Holstein twins, just 6 days old in this picture. The one on the left is a male and the other is a female. We haven’t named them, and probably won’t. So far I’ve been calling them ‘the twins’ They require milk replacer feedings 3-4 times a day. I’ve introduced calf starter which is a grain mix. So far only the boy is nibbling at it. They aren’t eating hay yet but they have access to some.
They are so sweet! All they want to do these days is suck. They’re so funny! They aren’t shy of us or our touch. We’ve all been enjoying them very much. They’re healthy and happy. Babies are so cute.
Boy (bull calf)