Monday, October 6, 2014

Feeding bummer calves.

The herd at Double M has quite a bit of Simmental influence in it, and as a result we have a fair amount of twin calves each year.  A beef cow usually only has enough milk for one calf (versus a dairy cow who can support more) so when a cow has twins, one of the twins is pulled off of the cow.  Clint calves near what we call "the heifer barn" and it's set up well for calves we pull off.
 
 
Extra twins are often called bummer calves.  A bummer calf is one that doesn't have a momma....in the case of twins, usually a cow will favor one twin over the other or one calf will be weaker and so we bring that calf to the barn. 
 
A lot of times when a cow has twins, she will lay down and have one, stand up and move to another spot and have the second one.  Since she's moved, often time she'll forget she had the first one.  So usually the cow favors the second born and doesn't even realize she has a second calf to take care of.   Sometimes, you'll get lucky and the cow will realize she had two calves and will take care of two calves.  That means she'll let both of them nurse colostrum (essential first milk that provides antibodies to a new born calf) and lick them off.  When that happens, if the cow can keep up and milk enough for both calves, sometimes we'll let her keep both calves on her.  But if she doesn't have enough milk, or doesn't keep both calves with her all of the time, then we'll pull one calf off of her and take it to the barn.
 
 
Since these calves aren't nursing a cow - we're their source of food and nourishment.
 
These bummer calves are bottle fed twice a day, with a mixture of powered milk replacement that gets reconstituted in water.  Or - if we have a lot of bummer calves, Clint will try to buy a Jersey cow at the sale and we'll keep her at the barn and let the bummer calves nurse her twice a day.  We could probably use a Jersey cow right now, but none of ours have calved yet and there hasn't been one that Clint likes come thru the sale so we're bottle feeding.
 
This little sweetheart was born two weeks ago, and at first her momma was able to keep up with both twins.  But after day 2, she kept getting separated so we brought her to the barn and put her on the bottle.
 
 
She LOVES to eat, and comes running when you open the door to the calving barn!
 
At first, this calf had trouble nursing (would nurse so fast that milk would shoot out her nose) and Clint though maybe the flap in her throat hadn't formed right since she so easily had milk go up her nose.  But we kept at it, and just tried to make her go slow and now she can drink 2 full bottles per feeding with no problems.  That's such a good feeling!
 
 
She'll stay on the bottle - but will get grafted to a cow if there's one who loses her calf.
 
Until then - I'll look forward to feeding my little buddy at the barn on my days off. :)

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