Saturday, February 18, 2012

Let's raise some bottle calves!

INSPIRATIONHow To Raise a Bottle Calf by Jackie Clay, Backwoods Home Magazine (Jackie Clay is my farming hero.  She is a big reason why we feel inspired to try what we try.  If you don't subscribe to Backwoods Home Magazine, you should visit their website and see why we love it so much!)

We had read for a couple of years now about buying young male calves from dairy farms and raising them for  beef.  We don't like grocery store beef and needed a cost effective way of providing our own beef so this sounded perfect for us.

I unsuccessfully watched craigslist for affordable calves nearby.  I was getting discouraged about our calf buying prospects until The Hubbie used his "I-know-a-guy" super power and found the number for a diary farm that might have some young calves for sale.

The Hubbie called and spoke with the lady over the farm who told him she would have some but it may be a few weeks.  So, The Hubbie and I bought a big bag of calf replacer, bottles, and a few other odds and ends in preparation.  Our plan for housing was to let the baby calf stay in the goat barn with our 3 1/2 (one is only a couple of weeks old) goats until we were comfortable feeding it and then move it over to the big barn with the larger pasture after repairing the fence.

We thought we had time to get all of our preparations in order but the lady called Thursday afternoon and said she had calves for sale if we wanted them.  So, we figured we had the feeding items why not?

Mistake #1: We don't own a livestock trailer.  We have to use a pick up truck with a camper on the back so our livestock acquisitions are limited to what we can haul safely in the truck.  Once The Hubbie chose TWO calves to bring home, wood shavings were put in the back of the truck and the two calves were lifted in by The Hubbie's brother.  They made the trip well so we're very thankful of that.  We are also on the hunt for a cheap livestock trailer.

Mistake #2:  Just because you're told a calf is "bucket trained" doesn't mean it is going to automatically or joyfully eat from a bucket.  The lady told The Husbbie that he should feed them as soon as he got them home.  We mixed up two servings of the calf replacer and carried out our two buckets to the calves.  Let me just say that the natural urge for a calf to buck it's head while eating makes feeding them out of a bucket an interesting experience.

Mistake #3:  Believing that our goats would be okay with the addition of calves to the field.  This proved to be the biggest mistake of the evening.  The calves had never been out in a field before so the combination of being hauled to a new place and then being released to run and play was a bit much for them to handle.  One of the calves is a bit more....remedial than the other so it went berserk.  It was running all over, falling over, ran into a fence post, and just created overall chaos in the barnyard.  The goats kept their distance so we thought they'd eventually figure out that cows don't eat goats.

After staying with the animals for a while, it seemed everybody was calming down so I went inside and The Hubbie took The Hubbie's brother back home.  I was cooking chicken and dumplings for supper and just happened to look out the kitchen window in time to see our goats disappearing into the woods on the next road over from us.  Panicked, I called The Hubbie to let him know he needed to hurry home and help find where the goats got out.  I just knew we'd never see our adult goats again but was really hoping the baby goat could be found and brought back home.

The Hubbie used his "I-Can-Fix-This" super power to find our goats in the woods and keep them close by until I could bring the truck over to haul them home.  I'm very thankful that the folks across the way at least knew us so that when I was knocking on their door to tell them I needed to park in their driveway and chase goats through their woods, they gave us a "Bless your heart" and told us to go right ahead.

Long story short, we got the goats back home.

This left us with the problem of where everyone would stay for the night.  The calves were already bedded down in the goat barn so that was fine.  The goats had to bunk with the chickens for the night.  The goats and chickens are used to each other and since the chickens sleep on the highest roost anyway, room wasn't an issue for the night.

Today was the first day we have ever had to wake up extra early to do farm chores.  The Hubbie says that this means we're actually on our way to being real farmers.

The calves made it well through the night and were eager to get their buckets this morning.  The goats don't trust us at the moment but we were able to move them out of the coop and into the fenced chicken yard for today.  The chickens got their coop door opened and they are out free ranging and having a good ole' time as usual.  The Husband hopes to expedite the barn and fence repairs today and move the calves over to a barn stall tonight.  This would be good for everyone, especially the goats.  Hope it all comes together!

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