Have you recently adopted a beautiful calf from us? Here is all the calf care information you need to know to ensure your calf remains healthy and happy.
Congratulations on adding a gorgeous calf to your family, we so appreciate that you chose to adopt from ’Til The Cows Come Home and not shop.
Calf General Care:
An important aspect about cows you might not know is that they are very social animals and love to live with others. Therefore, if you have adopted one calf you must ensure that they have a permanent paddock buddy such as another calf or cow or even a sheep, goat, horse,.. and assure that you are giving the calf plenty of attention and affection, especially when they are young.
The best way to build your relationship with your new calf is to handle and familiarise the calf with yourself more and more. By doing this it will make for an easier and more enjoyable relationship between you both. For example, calves often love being brushed, so it is worthwhile heading to your local equine supplier and grabbing a vegan horse brush for your calf. While at your local equine supplier we also recommend purchasing a leather free halter to make moving your calf around or vet visits easier and less stressful.
We know that feeding may be a little daunting when you are first starting out. You can choose to feed with a bottle or a calfeteria. To make the transition of feeding your calf easier, please stick to the recommended amounts on the milk replacer bag, and make sure the milk is luke warm, and not hot or cold to touch.
After feeding your calf will continue to butt you looking for more milk (like they would head butt their mothers to let milk down until she tells them to stop) even though it is tempting do not feed them more than the recommended amount as this can lead to overfeeding and ultimately bloat which is a fatal illness and can kill them within hours if it occurs.
It is extremely important that calves are fed on a consistent feeding schedule and that there is an 8-hour minimum break between each feed. i.e. 7am and 4pm daily. This is important to follow as it allows for the calf to properly digest the milk replacer while utilising the day time to eat and digest and night time to sleep and rest. We have found that adding a dollop of probiotic enhanced coconut yoghurt to each feed is a beneficial treat as they are getting some healthy probiotics that helps with digestion. We generally measure out the milk replacer and then add the luke warm water, using a whisk to ensure there are no lumps.
Once the calf has finished feeding always ensure all utensils and bottles used are washed thoroughly as bacteria can grow in them and cause the calf to become sick.
Calves should always have access to clean water, they rarely drink water at this age as they get most of their water through their milk but it should still always be available incase dehydration occurs while you aren’t watching.
At around 2 months of age or as soon as diarrhoea begins (common when calves go off mother’s milk and onto formula) calves should be offered grains, such as calf starter pellets. At this stage you may need to encourage the calf to eat these by putting them in the cup of your palm and as the calf sucks on your fingers gently pour them into their mouth. If you notice that the calf is eating a large amount of the pellets you will need to re-evaluate milk feedings to ensure they are getting the right amount of food daily. A couple handfuls a day is enough for a calf 4+ days old who you are just trying to help through diarrhoea.
Symptoms of Illness:
It is important to always monitor your calf to see for any changes in behaviour, these may be a reflection of a deeper problem.
Calves that are lethargic, head hanging low, laying down frequently, refuse to feed or have a bloated tummy even away from feeds are not displaying normal behaviour and should have immediate veterinary care as illnesses like bloat can cause death in as little time as 2 hours.
If you notice your calf has watery poo’s or blood in their stool this is a sign of scours which is fairly common in young calves and is treated with daily electrolytes until the symptoms lessen. If severe the vet will recommend penicillin. Generally calves do not go off their milk when they have scours but you may notice they are straining to go to the toilet.
Electrolyes are NEVER to be fed mixed in with milk replacer. It needs to be fed in addition to regular feedings. We find it best to give in the middle of the day to ensure their stomachs are fairly empty and can absorb the electrolytes faster. These electrolytes must be purchased at a rural supplies store.
To avoid bacteria growing in calves living space it is important to clean out all droppings daily, and ensure a dry and clean bedding area.
Again we would like to express our gratitude in adopting a calf or calves from us, we hope that your new family member/s brings you as much happiness as you bring them. If you have any inquiries do not hesitate to contact us.
By Jude Wisken and Donna Wild
Edit by Luella Botteon