Many times unfortunate things happen in life. Accidents happen, illness causes the misery, kids lost the parents. And it can happen a newborn calf either. Sometimes they become an orphaned calf as the mother dies after giving birth to them. Or some mothers are not ready to become mothers and they abandon their calves.
An orphaned calf should be treated with immediate action. Feed it with proper nutrition. The very first feeding has to be colostrum. It’s the first milk produced by a mother cow after giving birth. It is a milky liquid coming from breasts of humans, or other mammals. Colostrum is produced during the first few days after mammals giving birth. Then true milk will be produced replacing colostrum. Colostrum is a very good feed for the newborn as it contains of carbohydrate, fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins and antibody. The antibody which is in the colostrum is 100 times higher than any regular milk and it will fight disease-causing agents like viruses and bacteria.
A calf which doesn’t get colostrum are likely having higher risk to get pneumonia than calf that had colostrum immediately after birth. They should consume colostrum within the initial six hours after birth or the chance for the body to absorb antibody will decrease fast. After colostrum the next feed for the newborn should be a high quality milk replacer that contains a lot of protein and fat which are very important for growth.
Feed the calf from a bottle twice a day. You can train the calf to have his liquid feed from a bucket. First thing to teach he calf is by putting your two fingers in the calf’s mouth that you have dipped your fingers into the milk. When he starts sucking, slowly take his mouth into the bucket by lowering your hand into the bucket. Ensure that his nostrils are not below the liquid. After several tries, the calf will catch on.
If you have some good area of pastures and a little herd of cows, there is a chance that another cow will adopt the orphan. If that happens, the calf will be just fine. However, if the orphan is really young and still need your assistance to bottle feed him, you should take care of it. If you feed the calf with a bottle, find a way to feed it with milk or milk replacer which is a high quality concentrate diet. Their digestive system is not fully developed yet to have forage. However, they can digest concentrated feed like pellets.
Now we would like to give you some information on how to take care of newborn calf without its mother.
1. Treatment after birth
When the calf been born, wipe any mucus from newborn’s nostril and mouth with a dry and clean cloth. Then gently wipe the body. Usually the mother cow will lick the calf to be clean as it will stimulate the calf’s system and breathing.
The next thing you do is to cut the umbilical cord 2 to 3 inches from calf’s body. Dip the corn into 7% iodine to prevent any pathogens to enter calf’s body. Place the newborn calf into a hutch which should be clean, dry, well-ventilated area. This should protect the calf from any dampness, heat and cold.
If your calf is orphaned at birth, you should take immediate action to give it colostrum. It is a very important substance that you should provide the newborn to build its immune system. You can get colostrum from other cow which have calved around the same time with its mother.
2. Bottle feeding
a. Feeding Schedule
A calf needs only 2-3 bottles in a day. You won’t be bothered to feed the calf during middle of the night or early morning. The calf only needs the feed during the day as it sleeps at night. Easy, right? Usually 2 bottles a day is fine. However, if the weather is cold or your calf doesn’t gain weight, you can feed it up to 3 bottles a day.
b. Non Medicated Milk Replacer
This kind of milk replacer is not necessary if you have a healthy calf. In fact, if you give it for healthy animals, it will only develop of antibiotic resistant bacteria. It will create the imbalances and problems for the animals. And can make the calf sick instead.
Calf which is bottle fed will still look for the milk if it is given the chance. It can eat themselves to death. That’s what we call scouring or calf scours. Which is actually baby-cow diarrhea. This is very dangerous so you need to watch your calf closely and observe its stool to be sure that it is in healthy condition.
d. Fences between you and the calf
A calf has a habit to bang its head into the udder of its mama cow. This is to stimulate the udder to let down additional milk for the calf. This habit is fine for mama cow as it is not hurting her. But, can you imagine the calf is banging you? It’s kind of annoying to you. The calf doesn’t understand that head-butting won’t make the bottle comes out any faster. It will be helpful if there is a fence between you and the calf when you bottle-feed the baby.
e. Bottle-fed done and off you go
After you finish feeding your baby cow, pat and compliment him/her, and hurried off you go. It should be done especially if you are feeding the baby in the same area (without the fences). Do you know why? Because once they finish their feeding, they will start looking for udder. If the lactating moms are not around, they might turn to you that is holding the bottle.
They probably will start nudging you, bumping you, smearing its head of over you to find an udder in you. So, escape from that place fast after feeding them.
It is such a challenge to raise a baby cow yet is fun. However all the challenges will not be obstacles for you to take care of the baby cow. Hence this is just a little bit on how to take care of a newborn calf without its mother.