That is a question we get asked. We have also heard from other groups that it is cruel to rip the calf from its mother. We’ve read that cows are left bawling for their calves when separated.
I’ve been here 40+ years and never once have I heard a mother cow cry for her baby. As far as the ripping part – totally false.
On our farm, most births are monitored and attended. Once the calf is born and mama has had a little time to clean the calf off, the cow is returned to another pen. The calf is moved to the next pen over and taken care of.
Why? We can control the quality of care for the calf.
Anytime a calf is mixed with larger animals there is always the chance they will be stepped on or hurt.
We don’t allow the calf to nurse because we want to know for sure how much colostrum the calf receives. Colostrum is the first milk from the cow after birth. It is thicker than normal milk and has a yellow tinge to it. Colostrum is extremely beneficial to the calf. It is full of natural antibodies from the mother. Also, there may be manure on the cow’s teats and a clean nipple is better for the calf.
The calf is bottle fed or tube fed one gallon of its mother’s colostrum immediately after milking the mother. We feed it right after birth. If there is not a gallon available from the mother we will use a bottle of frozen colostrum from a previous cow we have stored. It’s so important to feed it as soon as possible that if feeding is delayed only 12 hours the calf will lose 50% ability to assimilate the antibodies.
The calf’s navel is dipped with an alcohol based antiseptic. It helps dry out the umbilical cord.
She gets a metal ear tag. Later a larger plastic ear tag with a number will be attached to her other ear. These tags are to identify for record keeping as she grows.
The calf receives three treatments when born. She is given a dose of First Defense – Bovine Coronavirus to aid in the prevention of calf scours.
An injection of Bose for the prevention and treatment of white muscle disease (Selenium-Tocopherol Deficiency) syndrome in calves is given. Selenium is vitamin E. For the most part our forage is deficient in vitamin E and this gives the calf a boost.
The third treatment is a nasal vaccine called Inforce 3 – Bovine Rhinotracheitis Parainfluenza - which is an intranasal vaccine used for the prevention of respiratory disease.
She is then moved to an individual stall in the calf barn where she is kept apart from other calves and watched. Keeping the calves separated from each other prevents illnesses from spreading. Also, young calves like to suck on each other – usually their umbilical cord area which isn’t a good thing.
The calf isn’t fed for the next 24 hours. She has received enough with the gallon at birth and we want them to be hungry enough to learn to drink from a pail.
At the second feeding the pail is introduced. If they don’t figure out the pail, we will feed with the bottle again.
At one week they are given grain. We hand feed them the grain to help them understand how to eat it.
As the calves grow they get moved from pen to pen according to age where they are observed daily.
|Coats to keep them warm in the winter.|
Here is another blog post from my friend Krista and how they take care of their calves: http://thefarmerswifee.com/2013/12/11/yes-we-take-the-calves-away-from-their-mothers/