On our dairy farm, and most others like ours, having heifer calves is the goal. A few bulls along the way are to be expected and simply normal. Having a streak of heifer calves is always a plus.
In our situation, our show calves are kept separate from the rest of the herd so that they can be fed tailored rations and spoiled rotten. We have four calf hutches and typically calves will stay in there until they don’t fit anymore or we need the space for newer calves. After the hutch, calves move into group pens inside the bank barn.
In the past, we’ve been able to segregate one room in the barn and erect additional calf pens when needed – especially in heavy calving months like September and December.
This year, we’ve had so much success with heifers over the last 12-18 months that putting up pens inside the barn isn’t an option. Saying we’re overcrowded is an understatement.
I hate to call it luck, but our last few calves have been bulls, allowing the Jersey heifers to stay in their current hutches a bit longer.
But with two cows due Friday and at least a dozen more by the end of the year, hutches are prime real estate.
Our solution: temporarily convert a dog kennel into a calf pen. It might be jury-rigged and slightly odd looking, but it serves a purpose and will work for a while.
Plus, my son thinks it’s awesome that he’s tall enough to reach the door latch – which could turn into a huge problem if/when he lets the calves out.
Last night when my dad and I were putting the final touches on the kennel, my son buried a present for the new tenets – a green pepper. Calling it a good idea is debatable, but my boy was taught how to pick vegetables this summer and his newfound “chore” turned into a seek-and-find.
I’m not really sure if calves have a taste for peppers, but when I tried to take it out, he told me, “Mommy, leave it. Cows!”
You never know. My mom had a cow that ate Oreo cookies and I remember feeding bananas to a calf at one point.
~ Jessica Rose Spangler, market editor