This Involves

  • Time organising the purchase of the calves; often only one at a time becomes available. Calves will mostly be available around late August-early October
  • Transporting the calf. You need to have a suitable vehicle or container.
  • Time feeding twice daily at a minimum, mixing or collecting milk, organising feeding (with hungry calves!), and washing the milk containers.
  • A good water supply - for all the mixing and washing! A handy hose to where you are doing the job at the least.
  • Well-sheltered areas for the first weeks of life, calves need to be kept warm and dry. A well-sheltered paddock and calf covers or a barn for housing are two alternatives. It can be very cold still in September / October, beware of chills.
  • A market for the calves at weaning if you are not going to keep them past this time.

Initial costs

  • The cost of buying the calf from a dairy herd depends on the condition and type of calf. Bull calves of a beef type will be the most expensive
  • Cost of milk replacement can be pricey unless you have a cheap source of milk
  • Equipment for feeding the calves depends on your choice of type. There are a lot of homemade "calfeterias" that work very well at little cost.

Health

Problems may include

You will also need to consider:

Feed

  • Milk substitute is the main criteria. The most common form is milk powder bought in bags from your agricultural feed merchant. Other arrangements can be made depending on your contacts in the dairy industry for waste milk products.
  • Calves will eat little grass during this time compared with a cow but will need good quality grazing of a height of around 10cms.

Return

  • Sell your calves through a market at weaning time and the price per head depends on the calf and the market at the time.
  • The more calves you raise, the more return you will have for your time, as the extra calves do not increase your time directly. Your fixed costs will be directly proportional to the number of calves. Remember though, losing one calf makes a big difference to your returns, so animal health is a real priority.