My husband, Rick, saw an ad for Jersey bottle calves for $40 on Craigslist one day. We had discussed getting a couple calves so he called and got our name on the list. The seller was serving as a middleman between the large scale dairies and the people looking to raise the male calves to marketable size. We got the text that there were 11 available the weekend after Easter. Rick was out of town at a work-related workshop all week. Thursday, I had broken my finger when the wind caught the truck door. I spent Friday
and Saturday setting up the pen getting ready as best I could for 3 Jersey bull bottle calves. Rick traveled Saturday to get the calves which had gone up to $60 each due to demand. He picked up his dad and a friend along the way to help with picking our new family members. They managed to travel the 4 hours with our $90 livestock trailer with only one flat.
The calves were 3 to 7 days old and so cute with the prettiest eyes. Rick got to name them since my daughters named the goats. He
chose Cheeseburger, Pot Roast and T-Bone. The next day, a nasty cold storm moved in with 40 mph wind and driving cold rain. By Monday, the calves started showing symptoms of scours. I later learned I should have started electrolytes when they hit the homestead on Saturday and fed less but more often. Calves are susceptible to scours after periods of stress, changes in environment, and changes in feed. I was feeding 2 qts of milk replacer twice a day. I should have been doing 1 quart three to 4 times a day. After conferring with our livestock friends, we treated them with sulfa drugs by Tuesday. They never got the classic signs of dehydration; sunken eyes, inability to stand, and skin not springing back when pinched.
By Friday, we had lost Pot Roast. I treated the calves again with sulfa Friday (waiting the 72 hrs. between pills). I was feeding electrolytes twice a day and milk replacer once all at 3 pints. I was doing everything I learned through books, experienced cattle people, and what I had researched. After losing T-bone Tuesday, I hauled Cheeseburger to the vet. She agreed that he didn’t look dehydrated, but gave him fluids and antibiotics. He got better but about four days later he started slipping back.
We had a friend over for supper to discuss homeschooling and mentioned our frustration with raising calves. She offered to look him over. Sarah and her husband run a 1000+ head dairy. She said that it sounded like they didn’t receive enough colostrum when they were born. We were told that the claves had received colostrum, but we would now venture to say they probably had not gotten enough. At minimum, calves need three days of colostrum to get a solid start. She gave us some points more specific for his breed. Jersey breeds need more fat and less fiber so we started him on a 20-20 formula and started pushing more fluids by offering him a bottle of electrolytes or water after a bottle of milk replacer. It has been working very well. I have been able to work up to 3 feedings of 2 quarts milk replacer and 2 quarts water. Creep has always been available free choice. Cheeseburger is healthy, happy and growing. He is very vocal when he is hungry and seems to enjoy giving me a bump in the butt to help me over the fence.
As for the $90 trailer, we had purchased it at a household and tool auction. On something we use a couple times a year, it was a good investment. Before purchasing the trailer, we discussed looking for a couple other small operations to share the use and the cost of a trailer. It needs some TLC and some of our livestock friends make fun of it, but is works for us.
Rick and I are planning to fix it up and make some updates.
Sit in on dozens of practical workshops from the leading authorities on modern homesteading, animal husbandry, gardening, real food and more!LEARN MORE