Post by smokymtnheritage on Mar 12, 2009 0:20:00 GMT -5
Normally, we like to keep our calves with their dams for a while but we may need to separate a dam and calf combo... In this particular case we will be unable to bottle feed... soooo.... what's the soonest someone out there as seen a Dexter calf wean from milk and transition to grass/hay?
I am not sure about the "soonest". However, I wean mine normally at 3-4 months with no problems. You will get different opinions on this and it will also depend a lot on the particular calf. If that calf is eating grain and hay while also nursing, you can probably pull it off and it will be ok.
Larger breeds are weaned at 5-6 months. Dexters seem to be precocious. They do everything a little earlier. I watched Mahoney start eating hay when he was 3 days old.
That's the real key to it, is how long he's been putting grass and hay in his stomach. A cow or calf is just a skin bag full of microbes that digest their food. The microbes that digest grass and hay aren't there at birth. They're introduced slowly as the calf grows up. Early on, the calf can't digest grass and hay and would starve with a full belly.
So watch for how much grass he's eating. You might give things a boost by putting some ProBios powder on his hay. ProBios has a lot of the necessary microbes in it.
I read about someone who successfully weaned a two month old calf, but I never have. My youngest was 3 months, 17 days old at weaning. He'd been eating grass, hay and a little sweet feed for quite a while before being separated from his mother.
If you truly are going to provide the calf with hay and grass only I would say not any earlier then 3 months. They just do not have a rumen developed yet for high fiber like that and the calf will take a huge hit on development.
If you are willing to supplement it with grain then get it on calf manna or a calf starter as soon as you can. Feed developed for calves is easy to digest and has all the appropriate vitamins and minerals for the calf to grow and develop. They even have milk replacement pellets that can be mixed into its feed so you do not have to bottle feed it. Going this route you could wean it as early as a month old off mom. If you get it on milk replacement pellets then you could wean sooner then that.
Most my calves start eating hay and grass at a day or two old, they will even lay out in the pasture APPEARING to be ruminating but it is only a process they go thru to develop the rumen. It is not a indication that the calf is ready to leave mom.
If your problem is that you do not want to mess with a calf or only want to use the cow for a milk cow then maybe find someone that wants to raise a bottle calf or just butcher the calf as baby beef.
Last Edit: Mar 12, 2009 21:38:17 GMT -5 by rdoubled
I forgot to tell you about Little Orphan Annie, my first 1/2 Dexter calf.
She was born to a Dexter mother by a Shorthorn bull. The owner sold the entire herd. While loading the herd into an 18 wheeler, they lost Annie. She was only two weeks old. They didn't find her for 6 days, then put her in a barn with a bucket of water and a pail of dry milk replacer. Mix it yourself.
I bought her when she was two months old and brought her home. I couldn't get her to drink from a bottle or bucket, so I continued the do-it-yourself milk replacer. Only now, she was in a pasture where she could eat grass, too. After a while I ran out of milk replacer and quit feeding her.
She's a healthy, strapping girl now. She has a whole clan of sons and daughters running around.