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Would you raise a calf on skim milk?

 
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I am looking at starting a micro-dairy to provide our family and small organic food business (fresh produce and food cooked from it) with a source of organic milk, yoghurt, and soft cheeses for cooking (paneer, one-day greek feta for spinakopita etc).  This is definately worth doing.

I am also trying to rationalise whether it is worth having the extra cow or two to make a few kg of butter a week for baking when we can buy mainly grass-fed butter (we live in NZ) for NZ$10-14 a kg, and the milk needed to make this could be sold for $30-40 and be as cheap as the non-organic supermarket dishwater.  

The way to justify it would be to feed the skim milk to the calves.  There is reference to this being done by Laura Ingles Wilds, so it has been done for centuries, but on the other hand, I consider butter and cream the healthiest part of the milk when feeding my family, so I also wonder why I would I want to raise my next generation of milk cow on it.

We could use it for a later top-up feed once they reach 3 months or we could feed it to the pigs or chickens,  but as this also seems a waste to just selling the milk.  We are specifically testing and raising A2 cows, but once you get to butter I thik this becomes a rather non-issue.

Annie
 
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Location: Stone Garden Farm Richfield Twp., Ohio
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~~~On the other hand.

We milk Jersey's. We drink and sell the milk, and make, use and sell all our own butter and cheese. We like to raise the cow's calf on the mother until weening, so we don't have to sell quite so much milk. Then we buy another calf to put on the cow. That gives us a number of calves a year to raise for beef. We separate the calves from the mother at weening, but a great advantage for us is that if we need to be someplace at milking time we just put the calf back in with the mother . Then we don't lose production from not milking. The skim milk left from making butter we sell as a "specialty milk" for those who want less fat (their "mistake" is to our benefit).

As to your specific question about raising calves on skim. I've raised beef and dairy for 45 yrs. I wouldn't do it. I have no science at all on whether it is possible, or advisable, or not. But my experience is that I wouldn't do it.
 
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Jim Fry wrote:As to your specific question about raising calves on skim. I've raised beef and dairy for 45 yrs. I wouldn't do it. I have no science at all on whether it is possible, or advisable, or not. But my experience is that I wouldn't do it.


Yeah skim milk is fantastic for weaned pigs but a far cry from the fatty nectar nature engineered to raise calves on.
 
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I know nothing about raising calfs but I have a possibly-humorous data point. Powdered milk sold for human consumption is almost always lowfat/skim and I was raised in an end-of-the-roader no-electricity situation so got fed a lot of the stuff — initially, Carnation brand sold in boxes.

Then my folks started doing the trucking for the local hippie food coop and we started getting a lot of bulk foods. Boom! 50lb bag of powdered skim milk. Wah! Nasty! Tasted even worse than the Carnation and six timed harder to mix without lumps, because fine powder instead of the Carnation engineered easy-mix granules. What? Says Dad. Why do you compain? This is USDA grade A, says so on bag! And so it did: “USDA Grade A Calf Feed Dehydrated Skim Milk.”

So I know feeding skim milk to calves was a thing in the 1970s. Kids, too.
 
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hello, to what age would you want to raise them on skimmed milk--as this was the old process and combined with whey , to raise veal calves  , a touchy subject these times, although rose veal process is now accepted --but creates a lot of work for yourself on the animals husbandry side of it , calves raised during weaning and just past it   ,even on natural milk but from the bucket and feeder , scour out very easy and need a lot of carefull handling and attention paid to them plus some additives /treatments to prevent or recover from it ,,before they get onto grass .
 
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Good call tony, every time you hear about calves being fed skim milk, whether or not they mention it, it is in reference to Milk Fed Veal production, not beef or milk cow raising.
The first week or two the mother's milk is colostrum rich (taste nasty to humans by the way) and is how the calf gets its immune system charged up as well as their gut microbiota.
From there, the milk fats are necessary for good health of the calf so that at weening time the calf will have enough muscle mass to survive and escape predators.
 
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Old timers in my part of the world would mix egg yolks into milk to make it richer and more nutritious in a situation like this. You would just need to watch the calf to see if it scours. It might work
 
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