I've heard the meat (called "baby beef" if it's beyond veal) is good. The calf might be bony by modern standards at this age. If you keep the calf over winter and then let it grow out another year on pasture it'll be much bigger, but then you have to feed it through the cold months and deal with a bigger animal. Also, I hear it's best to have two cows at least, as they get lonely.
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Gene Logsdon has written in his books about raising his own baby beef and reports it's quite delicious. Also, I think it is better for animal welfare to have at least two as cows, sheep, goats, chickens etc. are social animals.
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posted 1 year ago
After reading the comments here and other readings... we are thinking is getting 2 Bottle calves this spring. Slaughtering one late fall early winter. Over winter the other, get a new calf next spring and having the 2 year old slaughtered the following fall. This will also give us an Idea of what yearling beef will be like, compared to 2 year old beef.
I meant to weigh in on this a couple weeks ago but never got around to it. We take all our bull calves to slaughter within the first year, anywhere from 6 to 10 months of age, while they still qualify as "veal" (Rose veal, in our case). We do this for a few reasons: we're able to get the calves off the farm sooner, for better cash flow; it gives us a unique marketing advantage in an area dominated by beef; it allows us to keep more mama cows, since we don't have pasture tied up by fattening beef steers; and it makes something tasty and worth eating.
Compared to beef, Rose veal is leaner (you may or may not consider that a good thing), milder in flavor, sweeter, and considerably more tender. If you want a really nice stock, you'd be hard pressed to do better than one made with veal bones.
The distinction between "veal," "baby beef," and "beef" is not clear. For our purposes, it's only "veal" if the USDA inspector declares it so. Technically, I think, anything under one year old is "veal," but it all comes down to whether or not the inspector declares it to be under one year old. (This is not an exact science.) I believe "baby beef" is just a marketing term and isn't recognized by the USDA. None of that matters when you're producing for your own table, of course.
Another thing to consider is the cost of gain. I have no figures at hand, but a smaller animal is going to gain weight more quickly and more cheaply than a larger animal, because less of its food has to go to body maintenance. This is why, on the commodity market, the price per pound (live weight) decreases as weight increases. "Cost," in this case, doesn't have to be merely financial. You may find that, for a given poundage of forage available, you can produce more "veal" meat than "beef" meat, making the younger animals more economical, though that may be offset by a higher processing cost per pound.
Anyway, all that said, there's no particular reason, in my opinion, why you ought not slaughter a bovine at one year of age or less. (Technically, for what it's worth, a "yearling" is anything one to two years old. If you're slaughtering this year's calf, it isn't yet a yearling.)
Location: Missouri Ozarks
posted 1 year ago
To add to my post above, another potential benefit of slaughtering younger (and therefore smaller) cattle is that it opens up the possibility of doing it all on farm, without having to outsource the work. This means no coercing an animal into a trailer, no hauling (and thus no concomitant stress), and a significant cash savings. It also means less butcher waste, both via your ability to fully utilize "trim" and other things the folks at those facilities just aren't concerned with, and by allowing you to keep the hide for processing into leather. (Around here, the processors all sell the hides, which helps offset their costs. You can usually get the hide back, but you have to pay for it.) Oh, and you can keep all the inedible innards, to be composted and applied back to the garden as fertilizer, or fed to your chickens or dogs or cats (or even pigs).
And I would probably be remiss if I didn't mention that by slaughtering a younger calf, you have the option of sweetbreads (the thymus gland, which has shriveled to nothing in beef-aged animals) from your slaughter day. Of all of the lard-and-bone broth-and-organ-meat-loving crowd, I think the sweetbread devotees are the most smitten with their chosen odd bits.
If you were to purchase and raise a Jersey calf or two (I'm assuming that's most likely, since beef bottle calves aren't nearly as common), you could probably expect an 8-10 month old bull to be in the 300-350 lb. range, live weight, if he's fed on just milk (or replacer) and grass. Gutted (hanging) weight would be perhaps 175 to 200 lbs., which is perfectly manageable for do-it-yourself.
Wow great thread with a ton of info here!
I was thinking about raising a couple Jersey steers this year as well. Since I have never done cows before I have been dragging my heels and busy with other projects.
Brian did you end of getting a calf or two? If so how is it working out?
Question for everyone, i know you guys were talking about bottle fed calves. But would it be worthwhile to buy a weaned Jersey steer at about 300 lbs? And if so what would a reasonable price range be?
I was thinking about raising 2 steers for personal consumption. Trying to figure out if it is worth it to buy at that size or not. and if I should bring them on at the end of the summer or wait until next spring.
I like young beef. Lean but tender. Some people prefer fattier meat though. Most commercial veal is inhumanely raised but it doesn't have to be raised like that on a homestead. It doesn't have to be raised like that anywhere.
Up at the "big ranch" most cows (black Angus) are sold at 550 lbs. That was determined to be the most profitable weight for that specific ranch & market. Here at the "little ranch" (various breeds) many are sold shortly before winter. The needs, resources, & plans of each place are different.
I strongly agree with the two or more point. Cows are group animals by nature. One is not a herd.
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