From all the research we've done, the industry standard is to wean the calves at around six weeks. By this time, the calves should have been on something called "calf starter," which is grain, and cheaper than milk replacer. After they're weaned, their calf starter ration increases and continues until they're about six months old, at which time they're put on pasture. The crux of this method seems to be the claim that the calf's rumen is not fully developed at birth, and they are therefore not able to get the nutrients they need from grass.
So the questions that remain are:
1. When is a cow's rumen "developed" enough to put them on pasture? I couldn't find a definite answer anywhere. Our calves have been eating grass since they were about two weeks old, and they're very healthy.
2. When can we wean them from milk replacer? Cows are not designed to eat grain, so we're not going the route of calf starter.
In one of the Little House on the Prairie books, one of Laura's chores is to milk the cow and then reserve some of the milk to feed to the baby calf, who has been separated from the mother so that the family can have milk, too. This is a method we are thinking of implementing at some point, but no one does this anymore. Left with the mother, a calf might nurse for a year! But how long did Laura go through this process? I imagine they didn't feed the cows any grain back then, and cows can get protein from being on rotated pasture (another method used in the old days...in the form of picket lines instead of portable electric fencing). It's unfortunate that these ways have been lost to current generations. Since Laura and those of her generation have all passed, we feel that these methods need to be rediscovered by those of us without much experience or animal science degrees, but who believe that cows are designed to eat grass, not grain.
If anyone out there has been in our shoes, I'd love some advice!
This week we also completed the portable hen house, which we're currently using as a brooder:
|At 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning, we discovered a couple roof leaks. I picked up some metal roofing caulk yesterday, which we hope will remedy the problem.|
This week I will try to sneak in a blog or two about the rain barrels. We got 2.5" of rain the other night, which FILLED THE ENTIRE SYSTEM...220 GALLONS! In fact, the intake barrel got so heavy that it tipped back against the house and I gave myself a nice slap on the hand for blowing off installing the overflow spout.
I've also spent some quality time trying to eradicate squash bugs and their evil little eggs in the garden...more on that later.
I'm linking up with Homestead Revival's Barn Hop...click the button below to check it out!