Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cattleman and Goliath- Bottle Feeding the Giant

A fellow cattle rancher I had never meet before stopped by the house a few weeks backs. I walked out to the drive as he was pulling up. He had driven by the house a few times and notice that I always had a few bottle calves. He wanted to know if I would be interested in one more.

He had a 20 day old calf that it's mother had passed away the day before. I didn't get all the details on what happen to the mother, I was mostly concerned with the calf. I followed him over to his ranch and right away I was thinking this could be interesting. We drove through a pasture with some of the biggest Brangus cattle I had  ever seen. I noticed all the calves were crossed with a Charolais bull and were carrying some size to them.

Sure enough I follow the cattle rancher to his pens to where inside stood large calf. I had to question him if he was sure that calf was only 20 days old. He assured me that it was. I loaded up the calf and took it home knowing this could be a challenge. Any orphan calf that has been nursing form it's mother for three weeks isn't going to want to be handled or feed from a bottle. When you add the size and strength of this calf, things may not go well trying to get it to nurse a bottle.

Goliath quickly meet my expectations with the first attempt to feed him from a bottle. I placed him in a pen with another calf for a few hours to get use to the new place. I figured having a buddy would help him settle in. Goliath was doing fine until I stepped in the pen to feed the other calf. He ran over to the corner and just kept staring me down, snorting some, and shaking his head letting me know I shouldn't come any closer. After the other calf was finished it was Goliath's turn.

I tried walking up to him slowly but he just kept moving away. Finally I  got him in one of the corners of the pen with one arm around his neck and holding the bottle in the other hand trying to get his mouth open. He rose up to his back feet pawing and clawing with his front trying to climb over me. I stood my ground holding him in the corner but it was taking all I had. I got a finger in the side of his mouth avoiding the rear teeth. Calf have an extremely powerful bite that can do some serious damage to your fingers but I needed to pry his mouth open to get the nipple of the bottle in.

Most calves I a can simply hold them in a corner and kneel on one leg to get to their height and pop the nipple in, but not Goliath he would have steamed rolled me over in a blink of the eye. Instead I had to stand holding him in place and fighting to get the nipple in. After getting the bottle in place he didn't want anything to do with it shaking his head from side to side and fighting the whole time. It took about 40 minutes to get a half of bottle in him. It was all I could do.

The following morning was round two. It went pretty much like the first attempt to feed him but little better. I was able to get a bottle down him by letting it run in his mouth and him just swallowing. On the third feeding he was still fighting the whole time and never sucked but would swallow. At least he wasn't clamping down and stopping the flow of milk replacer.

Finally during the fifth feeding and after half a bottle of just swallowing he took his first draw from the nipple. It didn't last long but he did try. The next feeding he started suckling the nipple and on day five of working with him he quit running from me, by the seventh day he was coming to me to suckle form the bottle.

I can't say he was the hardest to take to bottle feeding because I have had calves take up to fourteen days before they sucked. He was definitely the strongest. It scared me some placing my finger in his mouth to get the bottle in. His mouth was big enough to fit my whole hand in there. I wanted no part of those teeth. He is a good baby now nursing off the rack and growing.

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-There are some good advice on caring for a calf in this web site, but always refer to your veterinarian for proper treatment of sick animals. Some home remedies work, but veterinarians know best, and can save you money and heartache with exact treatment For this sites Terms and Conditions click here.