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If you’re a homesteader, chances are you may have thought of raising your own bottle calves. Bottle calves are just like any other animal—they need food, shelter, and care. In this article, we’ll go over all the basics you need to know when caring for a bottle calf. From getting them settled in their new home to what they should eat as they grow up, we’ve got you covered!
Shelter and Supplies
When it comes to shelter, all the calf needs is a small space that is both dry and draft-free. Depending on how large your calf will be at full size, you can either purchase or build a small structure that meets these criteria. The structure should provide enough room for the calf to stand up and turn around in. In addition to shelter, you will also need a calf bottle, with nipple, and milk replacer (by weight). You can find milk replacer at most feed stores. Calf milk replacer is specially formulated to give them all of the nutrition they need to grow healthy and strong.
If you've brought in a cold calf from outside, it's important to warm them up as quickly as possible. It's best if you have an old quilt or blanket handy that can be used as an insulator. A hair dryer is also helpful for warming them up quickly—just make sure not to get too close with the hair dryer! Once warmed up and fed, the calf should settle right into its new home in no time. If you are having problems getting a calf to nurse, check out the post on Getting the Stubborn Ones to Nurse.
As They Grow
Once your bottle calves get older, they'll need more than just milk replacer—they also need hay or alfalfa (grass hay works best) and creep feed. Creep feed is typically a pellet and is specially formulated for younger animals like calves who aren't quite ready for regular feed yet. You'll want to introduce creep feed gradually so your calf has time to adjust before it starts consuming it fully. In addition, always make sure there’s plenty of fresh water available for your calves!
Caring for bottle calves is an incredibly rewarding experience when done correctly; however, there are several supplies needed to ensure their health and wellbeing. Shelters are essential for keeping them safe from predators and harsh weather conditions while bottles, milk replacer, hay and grains provide them with all the nutrients they need for strong physical development. Finally, old blankets and hair dryers can be used to warm any cold or weak calves that may come in so that they can thrive on your homestead!
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