Thursday, September 10, 2009

$5 calf followup

These are the first cows I've ever owned; they're my $5 calves. I've written about them before, here, here and here. They seem to be doing well so far; putting on weight; glossy coats and healthy.

I bottle fed them from day-old, and the drawback to that is that they're hand-tame and friendly. Which is kinda cute when you've got a 20lb calf, but a little scary when you've got a herd of 600lb steers running at you to say hello. I really should have polled their horns when they were small. They really don't know they have horns and when they swing their heads around to lick at a pesky fly bite you'd best be alert or you'll get clocked.

The biggest problem I've had with them is that they will get out of the pasture at any opportunity. So I've had to padlock my gates so that random folks visiting the dogpark don't open them to get closer to the cows, and I've had to chase them a couple of times when they've discovered a weak area in the fenceline. The electric fence works pretty well to keep them contained, and I use it to rotate their grazing. As you can see from the pictures, they really haven't made much of a dent in my grass. It's still 2' tall over most of my pasture.

I'll probably butcher one of these this November; as near as I can recall I purchased these in March of 2008, so they'll be 20 months old in November. I'll keep the other two steers until next year and probably butcher one at 32 months, mostly to see for myself what the difference is in size, meat consistency and yield. The folks I've talked to about holsteins say that holding them 2 or 3 years gets you the best yield in meat because they don't fill out their huge frames until the 3rd year.
I'm going to see if I can get another 4 or 5 of them to add to my herd this coming spring. The prices for these calves is still depressed -- dairies are being offered less than the cost of production for milk and quite a few herds are being slaughtered right now. Consequently, even the market for proven milk cows is down.

I've found that the steers respect the electric fence if I put the strand at chest height for them -- which at this point is 3.5' above the ground. Be interesting to see how big these steers get next year.


sheila said...

Grass to protein, yum! Did dairy farming for the 1st 30 yrs of my life. Got out in the mid 80's. Wouldn't wish that life on anyone. Prices of milk, beef and veal in the store stay high while the farmer gets a fraction of the money. Commercial farming is a stupid business with the farmer buying their supplies retail then selling what they produce wholesale. You are doing farming the right way. Retail your product directly to the consumer and cut out the middleman. Also, if all else fails at least you will have enough to eat.

Bruce King said...

I think that dairy farming is the hardest, most unrelenting type of farming that there is. I've done a variety of jobs in my life, and with that perspective, I've got to respect how hard it is to dairy.

"A farmer is a man who buys everything retail, sells everything wholesale, and pays freight both ways" - John F. Kennedy

More farm related quotes can be found here: