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calf skin

Calf

[kaf, kahf]

A calf (plural calves, /kɑːvz/) is the young of various species of mammal. The term is most commonly used to refer to the young of cattle. The young of bison, camels, dolphins, elephants, giraffes, hippopotamuses, moose, rhinoceroses, whales, seals and yaks are also called calves. Calves typically do not have horns.

The birth of a calf is calving. The term calving is also applied in geology to the breaking off of a mass of ice from its parent glacier, iceberg, or ice shelf.

A calf is the term used for the offspring of a cow and a bull or other bovine species until it is weaned when it then becomes known as a weaner. A calf that has lost its mother is referred to as a dogie, poddy or poddy-calf. Bobby calves are young calves which are to be slaughtered for human consumption. Female calves are called heifers until they have their first calf, when they are then known as cows. Castrated male calves are called steers. They are called steers, bullocks or oxen when full grown. A male calf that has not been castrated is called a bull or bull calf. A vealer is a fat calf weighing less than about 330 kilograms which is at about eight to nine months of age.

Early development

Calves suffer from few congenital abnormalities but the Akabane virus is widely distributed in temperate to tropical regions of the world. The virus is well known as a teratogenic pathogen which causes abortions, stillbirths, premature births and congenital abnormalities. Fortunately it only occurs during some years.

Some calves are ear tagged soon after birth, especially those that are stud cattle in order to correctly identify their dams. A calf must have the very best of everything until it is at least eight months old if it is to reach its maximum potential. Typically when the calves are about two months old they are branded, ear marked, castrated and vaccinated.

A steer or bull calf should put on about 32 to 36 kilograms (70-80 pounds) per month. A nine month old steer or bull should weigh about 250 to 272 kilograms (550-600 pounds). Heifers should weigh at least 204 kilograms (450 lb.) at eight months of age.

Calves are usually weaned at about eight to nine months of age, depending on the season and condition of the dam, they might be weaned earlier. They may be paddock weaned, often next to their mothers, or weaned in stockyards. The latter is the preferred system as it accustoms the weaners to the presence of humans and they are trained to take feed other than grass. Small numbers may also be weaned with their dams with the use of weaning nose rings or nosebands which results in the mothers rejecting the calves attempts to suckle. Many calves are also weaned when they are taken to the large weaner auction sales that are conducted in the south eastern states of Australia. The best of these weaners may go to the butchers. Others will be purchased by re-stockers to grow out and fatten on grass or as potential breeders. In the United States these weaners may be known as feeders and would be placed directly into feedlots.

At about 12 months old a beef heifer reaches puberty if she is well grown.

Human uses

Calf meat offered for human consumption is called veal. Fine calf skin used for pages in early codices is called vellum. The fourth compartment of the stomach of slaughtered milk-fed calves is the source of rennet. Calves feed from their mother's udder for a few weeks before eating grass.

Calf leather is particularly valuable because of its softness, and fine grain. It is commonly used for the construction of high-end/high-quality shoes.

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