Sunday, January 22, 2012

First time heifer had problems calving and calf is not getting enough milk

Emailed Question~
“My first time Hereford heifer recently calved and had problems during birth. She abandoned the calf. It received plenty of colostrum its first couple of days (we put the cow in a head stanchion and let the calf nurse multiple times the first few days). We have since been allowing the calf to nurse twice daily off of its mother and giving it 3/4 bottle of milk replacer midday. So far it is doing well but we are now concerned the mother is not producing enough milk. We are probably going to transition to feeding the bottle three times daily. I was wondering if you had any ideas about the best way to do this without causing scours. Any help would be great. Thanks.”
One of my heifer calves Dean
Response~

First, I wouldn’t let the possibility of the calf scouring influence my decision on wither or not to switch the calf over to just bottle feeding. In this case I would continue to keep the calf on the heifer as long as possible or for at least 3 months.
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I understand the heifer may not be  willing to let the calf nurse and has to be restrained for the calf to do so. Normally after a few weeks the discomfort of the calf nursing subsides and the heifer’s attitude will likely change. It takes some time for swelling in the heifers tits to go down and she fully accepts the calf.

I would continue to bottle feeding one bottle of milk replacer midday and allow the calf to nurse the heifer at it’s choice placing the heifer in restraint twice day if necessary for two weeks. If things go well the heifer will accept her calf and also start producing more milk. I have ran into situations when it was not possible to do.

The calf was just not getting enough milk from the heifer or the heifer just became so difficult to handle it was best to remove the calf completely. In the cases that I have removed the calf only after a few days, just a few calves started scouring. I would estimate the risk of scouring in these cases would be small. By the way the calf can still scour if left just on the heifer. If the calf was to start scouring then I would proceed with treatment of the calf and move forward.

By separating the pair during the night and bringing the two back together in the morning, you can get a good ideal about how much milk the calf is getting from her mother. Observing the bag size before and after nursing and the amount of time the calf spends trying will help to judge the amount of milk the calf is getting. One little tip that is almost a dead ringer for knowing the calf isn’t getting enough from the heifer is: If the calf gives up on trying to nurse the heifer and comes to you looking for a bottle. The calf  knows which option is producing the best results.  

You always have to follow your gut in these cases. If you have the feeling the calf is just not getting enough then you have to make the decision which route will be the best.

Related Post
Use of Tube Feeder in Calves
Scours
Tips When Calves Don’t Want to Suckle a Bottle

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