Wow it has been another cold week!! As I mentioned in my last blog, we are in the process of receiving a new group of calves. (I am excited this morning as it was about 14 degrees warmer in the calf barn than it has been this week – 10 degrees above zero!!) We do not have any cows (mothers).
We purchase our calves from a dairy farm. A cow must have a calf in order to produce milk. On most dairy farms the bulls (males) are sold. The heifers (females) are kept because they will be able to join the milking herd when it is time.
We pick our calves up each day, so they are less than a day old when we become their caregivers. The calves have been given a feeding of colostrum – the first milk the mother produces after giving birth. This special milk is usually delivered by bottle. Colostrum is high in fat and protein and contains antibodies that help build the calf’s immune system. We then feed them milk three times a day for four weeks. (Yes, seven days a week!) We begin the day in the calf shed around 6:30 a.m. After the calves are fed their milk we give them water and fresh bedding (straw). The next feeding takes place around 1:30 p.m. and the final feeding @ 9:00 p.m. (This week the last feeding has been a little miserable. Just imagine being snuggled under the cozy blanket in the recliner or on the couch listening to the wind howl outside. We put on our cover alls and head out.) Snickers (the dog) has to get motivated too. The other night we went to town for a few errands and supper; then we went directly outside before we had a chance to get settled in!
We feed our calves out which means when the steers weigh about 1400 pounds they will ready to become delicious steaks and hamburgers. It usually takes about 16 months before they are ready for market. So, we are beef producers, but our cattle operation depends on the dairy industry as we purchase Holstein bull calves from a dairy farm. When Kevin was growing up and began his farming career he was a dairy farmer. The dairy that he and his family sold their milk to is the same dairy to which the dairy farm we work with sells their milk. So today, I would like to share some great information about the dairy industry at the following link: www.midwestdairy.com
Between groups (about every nine weeks) we clean the calf shed out. This involves taking the pens apart and power washing them. (That was a little cool last week.) Grandma Van washes ALL of the buckets. Each calf has two buckets. One for milk/water and the other for feed. They begin eating calf feed (corn pellets) after one week. Our calves take quite a bit of TLC the first couple of months. We just hope it warms up a little! Today March begins! It sounds like it may come in like a lion, so that means it should go out like a lamb!! It has been a long winter!!