ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Choosing a Calf to Raise for Beef

Updated on March 11, 2015
A newborn calf.
A newborn calf. | Source

With the high price of beef at the grocery store, you may have wondered if you should be raising your own steer at home. If you have the time, and landbase to do so, this can be a great option.

Raising a steer will take 18-24 months, so it’s not a quick commitment like chickens or pigs are. This means there is also a lot more time to get attached to your steer before you ultimately send it for slaughter. Think seriously about whether you’ll be able to let it go in the end.

There are a few options for initially acquiring a steer. You can buy directly from a farm, or from an auction. It’s preferable to buy directly from a farm since auctions sometimes expose animals to a myriad of diseases.

What Kind of Calf Do You Want?

Decide what type of calf you want to start with. You can either buy a dairy bull calf, or a beef calf. If you buy a dairy calf, you will most likely be purchasing a calf that is about a week old, then bottle feeding it. In the case of a beef calf, you will probably be buying a weaned calf, though sometimes bottle beef calves are available. A dairy bull calf will be much cheaper, but also higher risk, because you are now caring for a baby, rather than a well started calf. The cost to raise might also be higher because milk replacer isn’t cheap. In the end, a dairy calf will have less meat on it than a beef calf, due to a higher bone ratio, though it may be tamer to handle.

If you go the baby calf route, be sure to ask the farmer if the calf has had adequate colostrum. A baby calf needs to have as much colostrum as it will drink in the first 12 hours of life. Ideally, it will have had 4L within 30 minutes of birth; however, most calves won’t drink this much right away. It should have at least 2L at birth, and an addition 2L within 8 hours. It’s also good if the calf has had its navel dipped with iodine as this will have helped it dry up faster and not allowed the calf to be exposed to diseases through its navel.

Decide whether you want the calf castrated right away with an elastrator band, or if you want to wait a bit and have a vet castrate surgically. Do not plan to raise a bull calf to adulthood. This is very dangerous as he will be a full fledged bull by the time he is ready to process.

Ensure the farmer has tagged the calf according to local regulations. In Canada, this means a RFID ‘button’ tag in one ear. It is illegal to transport a calf from its farm of origin without a tag, and you will not be able to get the animal processed at an abattoir without a tag. The fines for not tagging are huge. The owner, and sometimes even the trucker may be held responsible, even if they have no ownership of the animal. Most farmers are very honest people who know better than to pull a stunt like this, but every industry has a few bad apples.

Basic Housing Considerations

Have the calf’s housing ready before you bring it home. A baby calf needs a well ventilated pen or calf hutch that is well bedded with clean straw. A weaned calf obviously requires the same, but it will need to be of stronger construction because the calf will probably attempt to escape and look for its mother when it first arrives.

A pen needs to be built of board fencing, or very strong, tight woven wire. Don’t use barbed wire or electric fence for the calf’s main pen. Later on, if and when you put the calf on pasture, you can use electric fence, but the calf will need time to be trained to this. It is not uncommon for a calf to just simply crash through an electric fence because it is a mental barrier, not a physical one.

1000 square feet is an ideal pen size for one calf. This should also include a shelter. If it’s temperate weather when you bring your calf home, the shelter can be very simple. A three sided shed is more than adequate. If you’re bringing a baby calf home in the winter, it will need warmer housing.

The calf will also need a water container and a feed container. If the calf is very small, a water bucket will be sufficient, but as it grows, a small tank is preferable as a growing steer will drink a lot of water. Ideally, get a tank and water float that attaches to a hose so you don’t have to keep carrying water. A basic rubber tub will work for grain. Hay can be fed on the ground, but a lot will be wasted, so some sort of hay feeder is also ideal.

When you get your calf home, put it in its pen and leave it alone for awhile. Try to mimic the feeding times it had on its previous farm for the first few days. You can gradually modify its schedule to suit yours once it’s settled in.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)