Not only my husband and I in the feeding, birthing and general cattle care business, but my husband and I also facilitate cattle adoptions. Yep, adoptions.
During calving season, we will have a handful of mother cows that can simply not produce the amount or quality of milk required to feed their calves. And mothers that give birth to twins also run into issues when trying to produce enough milk for both calves. It’s in these situations that we intervene to find a solution that ensure the calves are well feed and taken care of.
The optimal solution for these calves is to find an adoptive mother that for whatever reason does not have a calf to nurse. Just like humans, pregnant cows produce milk. If we can find a mother with a stable milk supply – and that is willing to share that milk – we try to establish an adoption so that a mother gets a new calf and a calf gets a new mother.
About half of the time the arranged adoptions work, the other half of the time the mother cow simply does not accept the calf as her own and will not allow it to suck. It’s frustrating when that happens but just like people, mother cows know their calves and have an instinct to protect their calf – and only their calf. When that happens, we turn to bottle feeding. The method ensures the calf receives two square meals a day but it does require us to use a formula. We always prefer the real thing 🙂
Calves identify each other by smell. If we can get a calf to suck, the scent of the mother’s milk will help the mother to begin to identify the calf as her own.
Earlier this week, we found a calf that was not getting enough milk from its mother. We separated the mother and calf and paired the calf with a cow that had ,just the day before, lost its calf. The arrangement was a success and we now have another happy pair on the farm.
It’s the little things that make our day on the Sawyer Farm but nothing beats the sight of a happy calf and mother.