Ten years ago if you would have told me I would have cows and be living on a farm again…I would have laughed and said maybe someday. But here I sit with three different pasture areas and an expanding herd of cows. We are still awaiting the arrival of our Dexter calves, which is really exciting for me because after reading genetic traits and characteristics that are passed down between parent to calf, it’s going to be like playing Russian Roulette. Since their father was a red and their mothers are all black….I should end up with Red or Dun colored calves! Shhhh…don’t tell Mr. Farmer but I want all Red Dexters! A whole herd of about 15 of them to be exact!
On the dairy side, I choose Jersey cattle for a reason. The Jersey cattle provide excellent milk for making things like butter and cheese but, the bull calves also create some excellent, tender, high marbilized beef when raised and feed appropriately.
With our one milk cow producing around 50 pounds or 6 gallons of milk a day, it is a little more than the two of us can drink and trapped me into a daily making of cheese. It was time to decide what to do with all of that wholesome Jersey milk. It is excellent for raising calves because of the higher levels of fats and proteins, so we decided it was time to get a couple more calves to raise.
Everything on a farm has to be planned out. Knowing that we needed to raise a couple of steers for butchering next year, the plan of adding two bull calves became a goal. After calling around to all of the local farms who may have Jersey bull calves that would still be on milk and being told they either didn’t have any or they were going to charge me a small fortune to get one. We decided to do the dreaded thing and head off to the auction barn. I have had minimal success with the auction barn animals and usually it ends up with me staying up for several days on end caring for a sick animal. Needless to say, I was determined to be picky about which animals we bid on….that was until I walked into the sale barn anyway.
We decided to stop in a little early to see what they had at that barn and what they didn’t. Since the barn is usually overrun with Holstein bull calves, I wanted to make sure they had some of those little light brown ones that the big growing companies and veal buyers don’t like to buy. Sure enough…there was this little light brown guy up in the gateway to be sold within the first bracket of calves. His navel still pink and wet but after a though check, he seemed like he was doing good.
Prevention is key. After talking with a friend who works at the sale barn, it was decided that he would hold two of the calves back so we could run to the local ag supply store to pick up a few things and then return. When the poor little guy came through the ring, he weighed in at 63 pounds. We managed to get him for about 20 cents a pound! A whooping $13. The other calf that we had been looking at early went for way too much money at nearly $1 per pound.
We stood and watched as Holstein calves rolled through. Some of them pulling a phenomenal price of over $2 a pound!!! Then suddenly, there was a black jersey (a cross between Holstein and jersey) that came across the scales. He had a solid compact body. His navel was already dried out but he was small, tipping the scales at just 64 pounds. Mr. Farmer starting bidding after a jab in the elbow and we managed to get him for 50 cents a pound.
All in all, we spend $44.30 at the sale barn and another $43 at the ag supply store. We had picked up a bottle of iodine spray and colostrum replacer when we ran out. Upon taking the animals and as they were loaded, we sprayed the little guys navel down with an iodine spray, wrapped him up in coat (he had the shivers) and headed home. Once home, the newborn received his bottle of replacer and we got them out into the sun to get them warmed up.
All in all, I am extremely happy with the choices we made. The light brown, now named Chuck, is doing extremely well. The black jersey, now named T-bone, didn’t miss a beat and is an extremely good eater.
I am sure you are wondering what our newest additions look like, since some of you follow this blog, you know I rarely go out to pasture without my camera. Here goes….