Newborn calves are fragile, so buying them is somewhat risky because of the stress of separating them from their mothers and moving them to a new environment. Buying newborn calves directly from dairy farmers is safer than buying them from a feedlot.
Dairy farmers or other small farmers are usually better prepared to handle newborn calves, including separating out the pregnant cow before she gives birth. They also usually keep the calf with the mother for two to three days. This allows the calf to receive colostrum, which contains antibodies and other necessary nutrients to help the calf develop a healthy immune system.
Feedlot calves are often exposed to a lot of other cattle immediately after birth, and they are usually separated from their mothers immediately. While they can be given commercial colostrum, the conditions surrounding them make them more susceptible to disease. Prompt veterinary treatment for any signs of illness can help improve the calf's chances. People who buy feedlot calves or newborn calves from livestock auctions should be prepared for high veterinary bills.
Buyers should familiarize themselves with the signs of some common illnesses and check any calf for them before deciding to buy. They should avoid buying any calf with runny, yellow manure or wetness on its hind legs. Healthy bucket calves also generally suckle on fingers.