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Advice: Non nursing 1 day old calf

 
Emma Jones
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Our jersey calved out yesterday producing a beautiful little bull. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to be nursing and despite our best efforts to get him on he won't even try. It's possible he's nursed when we haven't seen but her udder is very full and a couple of her teats are swollen with milk. I'm going to try milking her out and bottle feeding him this morning but any advice from more experienced peeps would be most gratefully received. He's standing, alert and certainly knows his own mind but we haven't seen him nurse once and when we put him to the udder he flat out refuses.

I'm wondering how often we would expect to see him nurse, how to go about the bottle feeding and if it is beneficial to my cow for me to empty off extra so she doesn't get blocked up.

Thanks so much for any help you can offer!
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Wecome Emma-
You're not necessarily going to see the calf nurse. It amazes me all the time, they can be very private creatures in intimate times. What I look for, is to see if one or more of the teats is shiny and clean from being sucked. Odds are, the calf has nursed.

It is imperative that the calf nurses within the first 24 hours. That first milk is colostrum, which is essential to the calf's health. Without a good dose of colostrum, the calf will not live. At this stage, I would be more focused on what the cow is doing than the calf. It is the cow's job to be encouraging the calf to nurse. She should be standing in front of the calf, and most importantly, licking the calf's butt to stimulate it to nurse. Many Jersey/Holstein cows are so far down the industrial genetic path, that they have largely lost these instincts to mother properly. This is something to watch very carefully.

You can hand milk some from the cow, and then feed it to the calf yourself. Just dont take off too much at once. The calf needs about a pint of colostrum, though you will likely spill a bit in the process. For today, dont worry about the cow's udder. Hopefully her being very full will help to remind her that she needs to be nursing her calf. If you were to drain her udder, you would drastically increase risk of milk fever for the cow, which is serious. In nature, the baby calf isnt going to drink but a small fraction of the udder the first day.

There is a lot to deal with here, but really, my guess is that the calf is nursing when you arent around.
good luck!
 
Emma Jones
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Thanks so much Adam for your quick response! The calf is napping quite a bit, he isn't distressed or crying but I really can't tell if he's nursing or not. One of her teats is swollen and distended but it is very shiny, could this mean he is nursing just at that point? The others seem ok, a little bit dry skinned but nothing more than usual. She is licking him but when I am there she tends to be more focused on me than on the calf. We've brought him to the udder, squirted milk in his mouth and even popped the teat in his mouth but he didn't want to suck. We've got them in the barn together right now, I'm thinking they'll benefit from some outside time this afternoon when it warms up, it might also give us the chance to spot if he's nursing and to see how sprightly he is. I'm leery of intervening unnecessarily but scared of not doing enough. Are there any clear signs that he isn't feeding enough?

Thanks again for any and all advice!
 
Adam Klaus
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That is great that you see a shiny teat. If the calf is nursing, then it is surely nursing enough. At that point, you are best to just leave them alone. Let them outside straight away, unless it is way below freezing, the cold will not hurt the calf.

Despite our best intentions, we do far more harm than good trying to intervene, and trying to keep animals comfortable in the barn. Trust nature!

Tomorrow you will want to start milking, slowly. Do not drain the udder completely. Massage the udder strongly as you milk. Milk about a half gallon from each quarter. This will relieve the pressure without unduly stressing the cow's system. There will still be a lot of swelling in the udder and tight tissue, that is just life for now. As the days progress, you can take more milk out at each milking, until you milk her dry by day four. Leave the calf with the cow all the time, except briefly when you are actually milking.

any questions feel free to ask, congrats on a healthy calf
 
Emma Jones
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Thank you so much for this brilliant and detailed info! It's very easy to get panicked by some of what's 'out there' suggesting you must stick a tube down it's throat within 6 hours!

We've let them outside now and they are roaming happily. She now has two nice and fully shiny teats with milk literally dripping from them. We've seen him nuzzle a bit at the back ones but never settled into nursing properly. She was moving around a bit but he wasn't massively keen so we think he was full. She's nice and protective of him, wants him near and licks his face regularly so I'm hoping she's a good Mama!

We discovered a cut high up on her udder (almost concealed by the fold where the udder meets her back leg/tummy), I've cleaned it up and put antiseptic on it. It looks more like a scrape than a puncture and has some scabbing so I'm hoping we caught it quickly enough. She didn't flinch when I washed and treated it so I hope that shows it isn't too serious.

Thanks again Adam for your calm advice, I really do just want nature to take it's course. I've read some of your posts on once a day milking and am planning to go down that route with her. I'm excited to start milking her! We will be bringing them into the barn at night because the coyotes around here are crazy at the moment but otherwise they'll be outside in this glorious autumn sunshine.

Just one more question (I promise!) when would you start separating the calf from the Mama in order to do a 'full' milking? I had thought at around 3 weeks we would put him in the barn with our beef cow (she's very gentle with him) and put his Mama in the barn next door ready to milk out the next morning then they can be together all day.

Can't thank you enough for the sage words!
 
Adam Klaus
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You can start separating anytime from 1 week. I run a dairy, and the milk is money to me, so I tend to separate at 1 week, and always have healthy, beautiful, vigorous calves. You could wait as long as 3 weeks, the only thing it would compromise is your milk yield.

I wouldnt necessarily be concerned about the coyotes, so long as the calf is with the momma. We have tons of coyotes, plus mountain lions and bears, and I have never had a loss. I wouldnt leave calves without their mommas where they are vulnerable. But calves and cows together should be fine. When you barn them up overnight, you are basically reducing the grazing time by half, which is really significant. Cows graze all night long, eat and rest, eat and rest, just like during the day. So I would reccomend leaving them out in the field. Of course, this is a scenario where it's all good until it's not anymore. And another reason why cows should be left intact with their horns, as nature designed them, to be able to protect themselves and their calves from predators. I pity the coyote that goes after one of my 1100 pound cows with horns!

you can still ask more questions, no worries. this is one of my true passions, and it makes me happy to hear about other small farmers raising dairy cows the right way.
 
Emma Jones
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Thanks so much Adam! The little bean really got the hang of nursing yesterday and seems to be thriving, I even managed to spot him at it while I hid in a bush! I'm going to have a try with milking her a little this evening and follow the schedule you suggest : )

I do have a couple of questions (surprise), does the little guy need anything to help him through the night? I was warned against letting him drink water at first but I'm assuming he'll need it when he isn't nursing from his Mum? How much milk would you expect to get from a Jersey doing once a day milking and sharing? You mentioned 1/2 a gallon from each quarter but I'm thinking you meant half a gallon overall after milking each quarter? I'm also wondering when you begin the weaning process and if you can point me at some ideas as to how to go about it?

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, I can't tell you how much reassurance you've given us and helped us to. not. panic!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!
 
Adam Klaus
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Baby calf will be fine through the night. Mine always have access to water from the creek, but I dont think they drink any until they start eating grass, which is at more like a month or so.

Milk yield is totally dependent on the quality of pasture your cow is eating, and her genetics. I think that initially, when you are not separating, you will probably get three or four gallons if you milk her dry. I wrote correctly, 1/2 gallon per quarter. Maybe a little less, if she isnt a big producer. Somewhere between a quart and a half gallon per quarter. Not all quarters are necessarily going to hold an equal amount of milk, so take that into consideration as well.

Weaning isnt a big deal. Just separate the calf in the evening, milk momma in the morning, and reunite them after milking. I actually have switched it up this year, and separate in the morning, milk in the evening, and reunite them then. I think I like that rhythm better, but this is the first year doing that schedule. The calf will be fine. No worries. Just make sure momma cant pull a jailbreak move and rescue her calf.

Thanks for the hilarious image of you staked out in the bushes, watching calf nurse from the cow. Too funny. Especially since I have been there myself! Now, mostly, I just let it be and dont worry. When a cow is a first time momma, I pay attention more, but once she knows the mothering routine, cows care way more for their calves than we ever could. I do absolutely nothing for my older cows now. Natural farming at its finest.

enjoy the fresh milk! colostrum is good for people too, ya know.
 
Emma Jones
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Well I did have a bash at milking this morning, I managed to collect a whole one...cup. Yep, that's how good a milker I am : ( I will be persevering this week but we are also going to purchase a surge milker just in case my super powers aren't quite up to scratch. Of course I could always try dressing up in camouflage and hiding behind a bush...it worked before!

I will keep re-reading your advice and aim to not get overly stressed (no promises) but the good news is Mama and baby seem to be doing well, let's hope that continues!

Thank you again for all your advice and reassurance : )
 
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