Calf doesn't seem to know how to nurse momma cow : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

We have a calf that is 7 days old. The momma cow seems to have plenty of milk and is healthy and is taking good care of the calf. However, the calf doesn't nurse. The calf will come up to the mom and sniff around and act like it is going to nurse, but it doesn't. We started bottle feeding the calf, but have it penned up with the momma cow in hopes it will learn to nurse. The momma cow is pretty mean and won't stand still for us to try and put the calf on her and teach the calf. The calf takes the bottle just fine, but is still pretty skinny. Does anyone have any suggestions?

-- Karen Linder (, March 13, 2002



When did you decide to bottle feed? Did the calf suck at least once to get colostrum? I suspect so since it is 7 days old and alive. How much time did you give the calf to try before you offered a bottle? Are you absolutely certain that it does not nurse? Perhaps it is full from the bottle...calves often sniff around mom when they are full. Do you have birth weight and current weight on the little critter?

Put mom in the squeeze chute or head gate and show junior where to find dinner and leave off with the bottle. Calves generally don't need teaching but if you panicked and intervened with the bottle early, I am sure that it is confused. If you haven't a head or squeeze, then halter mom and snub her in the corner of a stall and push a gate panel up against her and show junior through the gate what to careful with this for your sake.

I am sure that I don't have all of the info yet, but with scores of thousands of calves, I have only ever needed to pen up a handful of moms and that was usually because they kicked their calves off, not because the calf could not find supper. Sometimes it took a good hour for junior to figure it out and sometimes I was ready to do something, but only twice did I pen mom to take junior's head and bring it to the udder.


-- Oscar H. Will III (, March 13, 2002.

What breed of cattle do you have Oscar? My Holstien/Angus critters are dumber than yours, seems I get a dumb one every year that can't figure it out. Tall calf with a low udder seems to make the problem worse...


-- paul (, March 14, 2002.

Paul, I agree about the tall calf and low udder. One of our hereford was bred to a black angus and had a tall calf that just couldn't seem to find the udder - it did finally and is one of the most playful calves we have.

What does the calf poop look like, does it have scours? Is there blood in the poop? It might be eating, but because it has scours or a touch of some illness, it is not doing as well.

I agree with Paul about the bottle. The calf will like the bottle because it is easier to get milk out of. If you don't have a squeeze chute or headgate, go buy a rope with a quick release latch and tie her up to a strong post in the barn. If you have to catch the back leg in another rope so she can't kick. That is what we do with our cows that we sometimes have problems with.

-- beckie (none@this.time), March 14, 2002.

This is oblique to the topic but answers someone's question posed here.

Hey Paul-

I have pretty much had Black Angus....some purebred and some commercial to test out our genetics on. Breeding for calving ease and maternal traits coupled with explosive growth might be the reason that we have so few problems. As I think about it, with culling rates as high as 25% in the early years we just might have shipped the problems away. We culled for mean disposition, large teats, tallness (ranginess), general unthriftyness, calf rejection, and a few more things, like small rib eye area , high back fat, and the like. Success on pasture was a large part of our formula along with moderate frame good maternals high weaning weights etc. Males from select crosses were tested on the commercial herds and of those few even fewer made the cut as herd bull or semen donor.

Even for folks with small herds, I would always make the case that you should go for good dispositions and positive maternal characteristics for your own pleasure and for low stress handling for the animals. True sometimes you can get unknown genetics for next to nothing, but sometimes you get what you pay for too. It depends upon what you are after in the long term. I believe in scrounging and wrassling up a bargain but when it comes to animal husbandry, I really want to avoid trouble with individuals because that will affect your relationship with the group in my mind. Anyway, keep records on mom and dad pairings and see which crosses give you trouble and avoid them. If you keep a bull yourself, find someone who offers yearlings from a herd that you really like. If you AI, well you have thousands of choices for sires and can mix and match to complement or enhance your female's characteristics. Yes, you can affect the outcome quite a bit to enhance your pleasure and dare I say it...your profit.

OK, these are just my feelings, I am not trying to tell everyone what to do because in fact there are an infinite number of solutions to virtually every problem.


-- Oscar H. will III (, March 14, 2002.

Have you tried stripping the teats on the cow to make sure the milk is flowing? Maybe the teats are plugged and the calf doesn't have the strength yet to pull the plugs out.

We just had the same experience with our goat. We bottle fed for 11 days and suddenly the baby started nursing.

We removed the plugs and every day stripped the teats to make sure the milk was flowing

I think after bottle feeding the baby finally had the strength to nurse. When you bottle feed, just feed and get out, don't hang around for the baby to bond with you.

When our baby starting nursing I felt so rejected (but happy).

-- Carole Kington (, March 14, 2002.

Good advise, Oscar, in my opinion. Thanks. I've got a few big bones left in my heard, need to get that out. Messes up delivery once in a while.


-- paul (, March 15, 2002.

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