Feeding Calves

When our cows give birth, we make sure the baby gets cleaned up quickly.  We keep an eye on the baby to make sure that the mother is taking care of her and watch until we see her successfully nursing on her mother.  We leave the calf with the mother the first day to drink as much colostrum as she can.  The evening after she’s born, we move the calf to the barn and separate the mother, returning her to the pasture with the other cows.  In the barn, we keep the calf in a warm, dry stall with a heat lamp to provide a warm spot to rest.  This allows us to make sure the calf is making healthy poop and allows us to keep an eye on her during the night.  After the other cows are milked in the evening, we milk the new mother, collecting her colostrum in a separate milk can for the calf.

We leave the calf overnight without any feeding so that she’s hungry in the morning.  We warm up the previous evening’s colostrum and bottle feed the calf.  Most problems people have with teaching calves to bottle-feed are caused by the calf not being hungry.  We make sure the calf is hungry, and she usually catches on very quickly and easily.

Once the calf is drinking from the bottle, she sees me as her mother and I train her to respond to my calls.  This is the beginning of her training to become a gentle milking cow, so it’s important.

The mother cow is now back in the milking rotation, happy as can be.  She is milked out twice daily and her calf is fed from her milk.  After the 3rd or 4th day, all colostrum is gone and she’s in regular milk, which continues for 8-9 months.

The calf is fed a half-gallon or so twice a day until he poop gets watery due to the richness of the milk.  At that time, we begin providing her with plenty of fresh hay and dilute her milk with warm water.  We want her to eat as much grass/hay as possible so we make sure she has free access to clear forage and we bottle feed her as long as we can afford to once she starts taking to her forage and dairy feed.  When we’re confident she won’t try to nurse from the cows, we let her run with the herd and learn to follow the daily routine of the big girls.

Bill Michael
Michael Family Farm


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