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Being a Calf's Momma - Blog Twenty-Nine

Being a Calf's Momma - Blog Twenty-Nine
April 3, 2024

Today is Monday April 1st.  But this is a true story not an April fool’s joke.  Thursday of last week we spotted a new calf.  We count almost every day when we feed.  Thursday afternoon Beth wanted to check on the new calf.  Phooey, it was not with the herd.  We drove around and found the calf apparently isolated from mom.  You need to be careful around a baby calf, mom can come charging from any direction.  Beth maintained surveillance while I slowly walked up to the calf.  Not more than 12 hours old.  He just laid there as I walked and began petting him. Still no momma.

Being concerned we got our live in vet.  She concurred he was abandoned and would be coyote bait if left alone.  We picked up the calf and placed him in the back of the four-wheeler and took him to the barn.  There he got his own stall.  Beth left to find a place still open with the stuff to bottle feed the calf.   She also got colostrum which is the first milk a calf gets from momma.

Poor little fellow had no suck. We ended up opening a hole in a lamb’s bottle and forcing some liquid down, not a pleasant experience.  Wow, this was a big calf almost the size of other calves born three weeks before. 

Thursday no success. Friday, we got calf tubing materials.  A long tube inserted through his nose into his stomach and poured a quart of liquid with colostrum in.  Colostrum is the rich milk calves get from mom in the first 12 hours.  He may have got some from mom but we didn’t chance it.

Saturday into Sunday morning the poor thing would not suck on a bottle.  We held his head up and flooded him until he swallowed, not a good sign.  Sunday evening he figured it out.  Jeff stuck his finger in the call’s mouth and nearly lost his wedding ring.   Yes, we had tried milk on finger, finger in mouth and other techniques.  When he figured it out it was amazing.  He sucked the small bottle so hard it collapsed.  Monday the little fellow took a quart and a half.  Of course, this news was good. After chewing and sucking Jeff’s pants sloppy wet while Jeff was waiting for Beth to mix up the bottle, it was fun.  Little fellow figured out where the milk was coming from and ate.

One of many issues, calves need to be under mom to suckle.  Keeping the calf’s head low while trying to tilt the bottle so all the milk would come out was a trick. By Monday 6 am feeding we developed a process, Beth mixed the milk in warm water while Jeff got licked all over by a hungry calf.

Advice is welcomed here because we know so little.  But whose advice is correct?  We have been told to feed every four hours.  We have been told to feed twice a day.  We have been told to feed 2 gallons per day.  We have been told to feed 6 quarts a day.  Advice is free but discerning the source is critical. We were at the feed store looking for calf’s milk replacement when lady in front of us found it.  There were two bags but she only needed one.  She heard us talking and said put your hand on that last bag quickly.  Beth grabbed it and I ran off for a cart.  When I returned there was a conversation growing.  She raises bottle babies and worked as a physician assistant to veterinarians for 23 years.  What I’d call good advice was coming so quickly Beth got her phone out and shot a video.  Dallas, our new go to advisor, told us what could go wrong, how to spot it and what remedies worked.  She told us best feeds and brands to get.  She advised us on best vets in the area.  Finally, I asked the big question, was it ok to call her— “of course”, she said.  This is east Texas and folks are friendly.

It has turned out Jeff is the calf’s preferred feeder and Beth the preferred cook.

Nice place! Grandkids enjoyed the trail ride.

Tranquilino E.