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A feeder calf is a young cow that is raised until it's 6 to 9 months old and then transported to a feedlot. Once at a feedlot, the calf is fed and raised until it's old enough for slaughter. A feeder calf can be male or female. Raising feeder calves requires a few acres of land, and you must feed and care for the calves, until they are large enough to sell to a feedlot. This can be a good source of income for a small farmer, or it can provide a homegrown source of food for a family.
There are many resources available, like university extension programs, to assist new farmers. A business venture like this often requires expertise to become profitable.
Calves can spread diseases like E. coli through their waste. If you use a your land for raising vegetables and other food, ensure the vegetables are thoroughly washed and cooked before eating. Always consult a veterinarian before administering antibiotics or other medications to your calves.
Verify that your community does not ban livestock and that your property is zoned for agricultural purposes. If needed, build a large fence to protect and secure the calves on your property. Complete these steps before proceeding.
Set up the calves' feeding area to be sure they will have the nutrition they need. If they will be able to graze on an open pasture, the calves will need to eat 8 to 10 lbs. of dry roughage for every pound you want them to gain. You can supplement their diet with vitamins, minerals and other fillers, but this should be kept to less than 2 lbs. a day. If the calves will be kept in confinement, consult a local cattle farmers' association, or your vet to determine the nutritional value of the feed you wish to use. Follow your veterinarian's advice to be sure the calves get enough protein, vitamins and minerals once you have them on your farm.
Consult a local farmer or cattle farmers' association for assistance in locating a place to purchase feeder calves. Some areas have livestock auctions, and researching prices at these markets can help you determine a fair price for a feeder calf sold in your area. Conduct as much research as possible before purchasing any calves, and try to have a vet check out the health of any animal before you purchase it. If you do not have a vet examine the animal, look for signs of health like bright-eyes, shiny fur and alertness before purchasing.
Purchase your feeder calf after you have thoroughly researched the animals in Step 3. Establish the animals on your property, ensuring they have an adequate clean water supply and ample food. Bring in a vet for regular check-ups and vaccinations, as needed. Based on your region and the calves' breed, calves can be afflicted with problems like diarrhea, bloat and parasites. Consult your veterinarian to learn how to prevent or clear up these problems.
Sell the calves once they reach 600 to 800 lbs. to a feedlot. If you decide to raise the calves until they reach maturity to provide food for your family, consult your veterinarian and local cattle farmers' association for information on raising adult cattle.
Alane Michaelson began writing professionally in 2002. Her work has appeared in Michigan publications such as the "Detroit Free Press" and the "Flint Journal." Michaelson graduated from Oakland University in 2006, earning a Bachelor of Arts in journalism.