March 27, 2023 - Bringing home bottle calves

March 27, 2023 - Bringing home bottle calves



Last Friday I picked up these two beautiful calves from a wonderful neighboring dairy farm. Zinnia with the white markings on her face, is a Normandy/Jersey cross, and Brownie is a Jersey/Angus cross, her coloring is just like the brownies Toni makes for the kids! We're very excited for these new members on our homestead.

Bringing home two bottle calves can be an exciting and rewarding experience for any farmer or homesteader. However, it's important to be prepared for the work and care that comes with raising these young animals. In this blog post, we'll discuss the steps you should take to care for your bottle calves, including creating a barn nursery and treating scours.

Step 1: Preparing for the Arrival of Your Bottle Calves

Before you bring home your bottle calves, you'll need to make sure that you have all the necessary equipment and supplies. This includes:

  • Bottles and nipples: You'll need to purchase bottles and nipples specifically designed for calves. I also prefer to use this Calf Bottle Holder once I'm sure they're successfully nursing. If you prefer to use a bucket or have multiple calves it may be easier to use this calf bucket 
  • Milk replacer: Calves need to be fed a milk replacer specifically formulated for their nutritional needs. I prefer DuMOR Ultra Plus Calf Milk Replacer
  • Colostrum: It's important to have colostrum on hand in case your calves didn't receive enough from their mother.
  • Bedding: Your calves will need a clean, dry place to sleep. Straw or wood shavings work well for bedding.
  • Feed bucket: You'll need a bucket to mix the milk replacer and to feed your calves.

Step 2:

Creating a Barn Nursery

A barn nursery is a designated area in your barn or outbuilding where you can keep your bottle calves. This space should be clean, dry, and well-ventilated. Ideally, it should also be easy to clean and disinfect to help prevent the spread of disease.

To create a barn nursery, you'll need to:

  • Choose a suitable location: Look for a space that is protected from the elements and has easy access to water and electricity.
  • Install fencing: You'll need to fence off the area to keep your calves contained.
  • Provide bedding: Your calves will need a soft, dry place to sleep. Straw or wood shavings work well for bedding.
  • Install heat lamps: Depending on the climate in your area, you may need to provide heat lamps to keep your calves warm.
  • Install a water source: You'll need to provide your calves with clean water to help keep them hydrated.



Step 3:  

Treating Scours

Scours is a common condition in calves that can lead to dehydration and even death if left untreated. Symptoms of scours include diarrhea, loss of appetite, and lethargy. If you notice these symptoms in your calves, it's important to take action quickly.

The first step in treating scours is to isolate your sick calves from the rest of the herd. This will help prevent the spread of the illness. You'll also need to provide your calves with plenty of clean water to help keep them hydrated.

Next, you'll need to treat the underlying cause of the scours. This may involve administering antibiotics or other medications as recommended by your veterinarian. You may also need to adjust the feeding schedule or switch to a different milk replacer.

Raising bottle calves is a fun and rewarding experience, we love the bond we  form with our animals through bottle feeding. It is a lot of work, I'm not going to lie... we now have 4 bottle babies on our homestead! Thats a lot of mixing and pouring bottles! Milk replacer is expensive too. So keep that in mind. We have to stock up every two weeks and it's about $200 for the lamb milk replacer and calf milk replacers we use. 

Having multiple hands available able to help with the farm chores helps. We're giving our children an experience that I feel is very important in their lives. Teaching responsibility can come in many forms and happen in any environment, you don't have to raise animals or homestead to teach it.

I chose this lifestyle out of necessity at this point. Back in California during covid we started homesteading out of fear. We didn't know what the future would hold. For us it's been years of change. We don't live the same lifestyle we had pre-covid. Our grocery bill has doubled times five. We have 6 growing kids, 5 of those are boys who seem to constantly be hungry. The food choices they make at the grocery store make me cringe... mountain dew, chips, candy, energy drinks?!! I really do feel sick thinking about it. Don't go thinking we buy them whatever they want and all that they're eating is junk food. That's not the case, I'm just sharing what they always ask and beg for. Back to the point, feeding a family of 8 continues to become more and more expensive. I think we're paying 10x the food bills now than we were a few years ago. Inflation isn't the only reason for that, the kids are getting older, we will have 3 teenage boys when Sebastian turns 13 in June. I'm also trying to make more foods from scratch. 

I suffer from terrible migraines, and I think there's a connection to my diet in there. The brain fog, sluggishness, and just utter lack of motivation that I have sometimes I feel can be relieved in some aspect by the foods I consume. By growing our own food we can minimize the money we spend on processed foods. I'm incredibly intimidated by the process of growing food. I don't know why either.. I love plants and flowers and I've successfully grown flowers and plants inside and outside of my home. So I really don't understand why I'm feeling so much pressure and confusion about planting a few gardens and growing some food! The mind is strange.. 

Our winters are so long over here, I haven't started any seedlings yet, but I'm looking at what to plant and getting ready to buy seeds, trays, etc, if you have any favorites I'd love to hear about them. 

Have a wonderful and blessed day

xo Chrystal 

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