A Cowboy’s Faith: Valuable calves are hard work – Osage County Online | Osage County News

A Cowboy’s Faith: Valuable calves are hard work

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.Baby calves are the most valuable property in recollection of nearly seven decades in the cattle business. Prices recorded at auctions today, usually several hundred dollars, far surpass the level of half a century ago.

Heifers that calved in feedlots of yesteryear were a major detriment that managers wanted little to do with. These newborns were often available by calling the feedlots, which were anxious to get rid of them as soon as possible.

Today’s generation of calf buyers will hardly believe that feedlots sold those calves for maybe $15 or even less. While the investment was low, so was the possibility of making money with the calves. Numerous attempts at growing baby feedlot calves failed.

Stress from their birthing, lack of momma and feedlot manager attention, and time delay were immediate setbacks. They typically never got their first milk containing colostrum from their mothers. So, the generally small, thin, fragile, often shaking babies had to get the artificial colostrum from new owners. The first food was too late in most cases and did not accomplish what it was supposed to do.

Often the little calves would succumb within a few hours of arrival. If they did live with regular feedings of milk replacer from a bottle, longevity was still usually quite short.

There were a limited number that started eating feed and developed into marketable cattle, although their background was usually apparent.

Some cattle owners like to develop baby calves, but biggest demand is to put them on cows that have lost calves. Dairymen have sometimes been a source of baby calves for cows that lost calves and that often works quite well.

Putting a baby sale barn calf on a cow that has lost a calf can be successful but not always.

Ranch personnel care of baby calves is a major task. There are three babies in box stalls with regular bottle feedings. Two are from cows who had twins but could only care for one baby. The third bottle calf just didn’t get enough milk from its mother.

There’ll probably be cows that will lose their calves and the bottle babies will be fostered onto them. Otherwise, the calves will be grown for marketing.

Reminded of Isaiah 58:10: “Feed the hungry. Then your light will shine out, and the darkness will be bright.”


Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.


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