Thursday, March 22, 2012

Baby calf won’t suck

Baby calf won’t suck- New calf that refuses to suck from a bottle

One of my cows passed away last week leaving behind a five week old calf. I tried bringing him into the pens at the house to bottle feed him, but this baby calf won’t suck. I tried every trick that I knew, but he just refused to nurse.

I tried putting salt on my finger and letting him suck on it first, but no go. He just didn’t want anything to do with me while fighting the whole time.

I cut the X in top of the nipple bigger and removed the weep hole so the milk would run out letting him swallow the milk but he never would suck on the nipple.

I give him a shot of B12 to help increase his appetite, but that failed as well.

I tried only feeding him just a pint of milk in the evening and waiting to the morning to attempt to feed him again, but still no sucking.

100_3968I tried to get him to feel comfortable with me and my scent, by covering his eyes and blowing in his nose and place his nose under my arm. After a few days he was comfortable with me being in the pen with him but still the baby calf wouldn’t suck.

I knew the calf wasn’t sick. He had great energy and wasn’t coughing or had runny eyes. His ears were alert and had no problem getting up. He was strong little bully.

These were all tricks that have worked well of me in the past, but he wasn’t having no part of the bottle. He would put his head back and twist from side to side fighting to get away from the milk every time. Sometimes he would lay down to pout and refuse to stand knowing it would make it harder for me.

I named the little red Brahman cross calf Spit Fire. I was able to place the nipple after it was open wider in his mouth and allow him to swallow. He would take pint, sometimes two by just swallowing and a few times I got whole bottle down him. I never did try to tube feed him. He never got weak or sickly on me.

100_3967I kept the struggle up for eight days and realized that he would never be willing to suck. Lucky he was six weeks old and would be fine without milk. He was already eating hay and grain. I like to feed milk longer up to 2 1/2 to 3 months old, but I knew his fighting would only get worst as he got older.

Spit Fire has been going for a week now without milk and is doing fine. He has joined the other calves in the pen and goes out to graze on grass and fights his way  to the feed trough for some grain. 

I knew Spit Fire was going to be fine but I was still feeling down a bit about not getting him to take a bottle so searched youtube for something to cheer me up. This worked:

Cute Video of Farm Kids Bottle Feeding Calves

The photos are of Spit Fire.


  1. Hi , this is Great Article , specially the struggling up for eight days .. hhhhh nice one :)

  2. Try putting another calf or two beside him, let them suck and drink and he will too, if you kinda let them push him put of the way, and little by little he will take off.

  3. I had great success by putting a little honey on my finger and then on the nipple. this worked after every other attempt failed.

    1. Thank you Anonymous, putting honey on the nipple worked like a charm. Feeling much better about my situation.


-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.