Saturday, April 11, 2009


When I took early retirement from the utility company at the age of 54, compliments of George Herbert Walker Bush, I was too young to draw a pension, I had to do something to feed the belly for the next 11 years. I thought, why not self employment? I had taken a decent package to retire early so it was just a matter of finding what would be my "bliss" so to speak.

I knew nothing about raising calves so naturally I decided I would start a calf raising business. Since my pet rescue work had been a loss/ loss venture, I thought it would be nice to get a return for my labors while working with animals. I lived near a lot of dairies in central Florida, so raising calves was not all that far fetched.

I contacted a dairy that had a calf program and asked if I could work for nothing just to learn the business. Insurance would not allow that type of arrangement so I was hired to work on a temporary basis. In order for cows to give milk, they must be "freshened"regularly by giving birth. The pure bred female calves were raised by the dairy as replacement heifers. The bull calves and crossed heifers were sold the day of birth.

My boss at the calf barn was amazing. We had over 250 calves. She could just walk down the long lines of pens and by just looking at them, could diagnose and prescribe treatment. I paid very close attention and eventually felt ready to quit my job and go solo.

I found a middle man who would sell me the day old calves, bought all the milk replacer, and necessary medicines to have on hand. Then I started to build the enclosures. At the dairy, the poor calves lived in very close quarters under the covered barns. I wanted to do much better so I built pens that were 4 x 16 feet. Eight foot was covered from the weather with a shingled roof and enclosed on all sides. Eight foot was wire enclosed so they could get sunshine.

I am certainly no carpenter but was able to produce one pen a day. Soon the calves started arriving. Oh my, were they cute and bottle feeding really forged a bond which was NOT a good thing.

Calf raising is a seven day a week job with no holidays. You feed bawling babies at the crack of dawn, noon, and afternoon. I had learned cleanliness is next to Godliness in calf raising so you spend some serious time shoveling and disinfecting. I must have been doing something right though for I had zero mortality. Unheard of at the dairies.

When I weaned the calves, they were moved to a long pen with three of their same age buddies. There they ate grass, hay and grain but also had room to run and play. They stayed there two months to gain size. I had three of these areas.

I had reached my goal of 40 calves which allowed me to bring in 4 new calves each week and to take 4 of the finished calves to market. I was not getting rich but was making a decent living. The going to market part bothered me a lot for I knew they were most likely going to end up on a feed lot out west. I should have learned my lesson with the rabbits on an earlier venture, but I didn't. Sometimes you have to hit me up side the head a couple of times to get my attention.

Un-Trump like, I was glad when the price of beef took a steep, prolonged dive. It was no longer profitable for which I was grateful. Now with a good excuse to get out of the business, I quit buying new babies. Eventually I was down to two calves and was once again unemployed. The two I kept were Reba , a little red Limousine cross heifer and Rodney ,a Brahma cross bull calf. They deserve and will get their own post at a later time.

However never again have I attempted to raise animals that would eventually become a food source. I respect people who can raise stock for food and know they are necessary to our society. I am just not one of them.
Lesson finally learned.


  1. Sometimes it takes a while to learn our lessons, doesn't it? Patti, you are just one amazement after another. You've done so many interesting things in your life. My few jobs have been sad, by comparison....LOL. I'd like to know about Reba and Rodney.

  2. I grew up on a farm, it is hard to keep from making the stock animals your pets and friends. It breaks your heart to get rid of them....

  3. They are adorable! You can see from the pictures how well you took care of them and how healthy they were because of it. I raised a (just one) cow from birth when I was ten years old, so I have some idea of how much work it is. Like all the animals we had on the farm, Amy, was a pet that I loved and cherished. I can understand your distaste for the meat trade. Look forward to hearing more about your cows.

  4. kenju
    I am pretty sure your ability to creat the beauty of your arrangements, blows my jobs out of the water as far as interest goes. I have just lived long and worked most of that time.

    Glad to know that even those who grew up on a farm, also got "attached". Don't feel so bad now.

    I am glad your calf raising adventure didn't end up on the dinner table. Amy huh? Once you name them you own a grain eating pet.

  5. I really enjoyed your calf story, Patti. You had a lot of gumption to start doing that, and did a great job of it -- easy to tell by the photos. You're amazing!

  6. Thanks Pat, I really enjoyed the caretaking except for my babies ending up on the dinner table.

  7. Patti, you have written a great post! I wouldn't like to raise animals for the food source either. I think I would sooner prefer to become a vegetarian.

  8. Reader Wil
    If I had to kill what I ate,like you, I would be a vegetarian, Something about looking in the eyes of a living creature-----