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Raising calves New Zealand style.

Wisconsin dairyman Paul McCarville is converting to the New Zealand practice of seasonal dairying. Since this means all the calves are born as close together as possible in the spring, he is also using their method of raising calves in similar age groups, on pasture, by using nipples on bulk tanks.

At first he was disappointed with this method as it produced a number of cases of scours. He determined this was caused by the calf nipples available in the U.S. allowing too ready a milk flow. The calves didn't produce the saliva needed to properly digest the milk and thus prevent scours. Saliva acts as a buffer, dilutes incoming food and reduces the amount of gas production.

He replaced the nipples with ones from New Zealand. These are heavy-duty, hard nipples which connect to a length of 7/16[inches] clear tubing to make the calf have to suck so hard they are nicknamed "mighty suckers." Once he used these nipples and tubes, scours disappeared.

He has also found pasture raising to be far healthier for the calves.

The method

The calves are bottle-fed colostrum for the first two days and then switched to whole milk. For the next several days they obtain milk from five-gallon plastic buckets hung about 20 inches off the ground, with the nipples (without hoses) near the bottom. When they have sufficient strength, they are moved to half of a 55-gallon plastic barrel and, once they go on pasture, to two 35-gallon plastic barrels which are installed sideways on carts which he pulls behind an ATV. The objective is to get them on pasture as soon as possible

The five-gallon buckets have nine nipples, the 55-gallon half-barrel and the 35-gallon barrels 19 each. The ones on the barrels are about 24 inches off the ground and use the tubing to the bottom. Barrels can also be stood upright and moved as required for rotational grazing of calves.

A ratio of four nipples to each three calves is used. Most of those using this system do not wash out the containers on a regular basis. Large plastic barrels are generally available at cheese plants but heavy-duty plastic garbage cans should also work OK.

New Zealanders normally give calves a maximum of one gallon of milk a day and thus make them get the rest of their feed off their high-quality pastures. In the U.S., additional milk and/or grains are normally provided due to lower quality pastures. Calves can be weaned off milk at four to six-weeks of age if they have been trained to eat high-quality feed (e.g., calf meal mix and high-quality, chopped alfalfa hay) and to drink fresh water. (At $12.50 wholesale price per hundred-weight, milk costs the calf raiser about $1.00 per gallon.)

This method of calf raising is adaptable from one calf to an unlimited number.

Paul McCarville has become the U. S. and Canadian distributor for the New Zealand nipples. For further information on these nipples and their use, send $2.00 to him at 18875 McCarville Lane, Mineral Point, WI 53565. The nipples sell for about $2.00 each plus S&H. The clear tubing should be available local hardware store.
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Title Annotation:seasonal dairying
Author:Scharabok, Ken
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1994
Words:538
Previous Article:Cows? Goats? Why not both!
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