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Life is Simple: An abandoned calf cost almost as much as he was worth.

Jerry Crownover

January 21, 2020

2 Min Read

I’ve always said there’s a million ways to make money on the farm. Living in the greatest country on Earth — with freedom to choose what we do and when we do it, and as beneficiaries of a booming economy — affords us great opportunities. Thus …

Last September, one of my neighbors called to see if I might help him with a cow that was having calving problems. When I arrived, I could see only the nose and one foot at the business end of the bovine. It was an unusually hot day, and after a couple of attempts to drive the laboring animal to the barn, we decided to sedate her in the shade of a small grove of trees. Working together, the neighbor and I managed to retrieve the other foot and pull the bull calf to freedom. Both cow and calf were soon back to normal, and everyone was good.

Five days later, the same friend called again and asked if my wife, Judy, wanted a free calf. He told me the cow we had assisted in calving, for whatever reason, had abandoned the calf and wanted nothing to do with it, and he didn’t think he could save it. Always up for a challenge, Judy agreed, and I brought the calf to our home.

He was suffering from hunger and dehydration, and my wife worked tirelessly for 10 days nursing the little guy back to health. He required a feeding tube, used at three-hour intervals, for the first few days, but was sucking from a bottle and doing fine by the end of the second week. For the next three and a half months, the calf lived and thrived (mostly) in a pen in the barn that we usually reserve for orphans and ailing critters.

However, since calving season is fast approaching and I fully expect to need that pen for other animals, I sold the calf last week at the cattle auction. He brought a whopping total of $358.75 (before sales commission).

For the three and a half months we owned the little critter, he went through three bags of milk replacer at $38 per bag, four bales of hay at $6 per bale and 300 pounds of grain at $16 per cwt. At two months of age, he contracted a joint infection that required me to haul him to the local veterinarian, where the diagnosis and treatment came to a total of $120 (not including the gas to get him there and back).

The total expenses of raising the calf came to $306, yielding a net profit of $52.75 on a free calf. Estimating the number of hours that both Judy and I spent with the calf, I calculate the return for our labor to be in the neighborhood of 75 cents per hour.

Life is good.

Crownover lives in Missouri.

About the Author(s)

Jerry Crownover

Jerry Crownover raises beef cattle in Missouri.

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