Grafting Baby Calves Part 1: Should you do it?

Here on the ranch, calving season is generally a pretty happy time. My business model includes buying pregnant cows. These are cows that I don’t really know very much about, as in, we might have an estimate about what month she might calve in, and we know what color she is, but beyond that - pretty much nothing. Even with that, we have very little trouble with these cows, perhaps because we provide them with a safe, low-stress environment and let them act like cows. All that said, on occasion the worst thing happens: we lose a calf during birth or shortly thereafter. When that happens, I have some choices to make. If the cow has died too, well, that’s the ball game. But if the cow is alive and healthy and the calf simply died due to some unforeseen problem, well, it’s time to go out and find a calf to graft onto that poor cow so she can stay in the herd and be a successful partner here on the ranch. First, let’s do the numbers. A seriously pregnant commercial cow in my neighborhood might be worth $1,000 or maybe even $1,200. If she loses a calf her value is likely cut in half, as she immediately becomes a butcher cow. If we can successfully graft a replacement calf onto her, she now returns to her original value. In other words, turning a butcher cow into a pair can bring a big increase in value. Finding a replacement calf. No, finding a good replacement calf. Last week I purchased a replacement calf at auction for $170. This week, similar calves were sold fo

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