Don't Bucket Feed Calves : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

This is from the McCarville's Calf Rearing System brochure:

Pressures of modern farming tend to make the average stock farmer completely disregard the physiology of the calf's digestive system. but a knowledge of this system and consequent requirements is vital if it is to be reared successfully.

When a calf is born its 4th stomach (the absmasum) is 3-4 times the size of its first stomach (the rumen). This is because the 4th stomach is the main digestive organ in early life.

When is starts sucking - wagging its tail and bunting the cow's udder - a groove at the bottom of the oesophagus (food tube) forms a pipe. The sucked milk runs through this pipe directly into the absomasum (by-passing the 2st, 2nd & 3rd stomachs).

When the calf if fed from a bucket so that its head is down, the pipe does not become fully formed and some of the milk gets into the rumen where it is wasted.

When sucking, the calf will feed often - approximately every two hours - and each time it does so a clot forms in the 4th stomach. At the end of the day this stomach is packed full of a number of comparatively small clots, each being acted upon by the digestive juices, leaving no space for any other foodstuff.

From birth, fresh clean water should always be provided. As the calf grows, he nibbles more solid food each day and drinks the correct amount of water. All of this goes into the rumen or first stomach, which gradually develops and grows.

When the calf is ready for weaning at around six weeks, the rumen is three times the size of the abomasum and is capable of taking on the main task of ruminat digestion.

McCarville also points out the opening in the soft nipples commonly used is far too large, allowing the milk or milk replacer to be gulped. When nursing the calf has to suck hard and doing so mixes in saliva with the milk. The saliva then aids in digestion. He literally searched the world over until he found hard rubber nipples in New Zealand and imported them. They are about half-again the cost of the common ones, but should last about forever. These can be fitted with tubing to go into the side of buckets or plastic drums.

The last two times I raised bottle calves as soon as possible they were trained to a 5-gallon plastic bucket on the fence with two of these hard nipples. In the two months or so they were fed in this manner, the bucket was never cleaned, just covered to keep out the flys.

McCarville is a fairly large dairy farmer and raises all of his calves in groups on pasture using his technique.

For his brochure send $1 and a business-size SASE to McCarville Dairy Supply, 322 High Street, Mineral Point, WI 53565. Ask for the ones on the Calf Rearing System and the Calf Life Program.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, October 08, 2000


Thanks Ken.

-- Patty Gamble (, October 08, 2000.

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