Friday, June 19, 2015

New calf on the place, and it isn't mine

Cliff's brother called me several days ago.  One of his cows, an aged one, had birthed a calf.  He had seen the calf following the cow the day after it was born, but had never actually seen it nurse, so he wasn't sure if it had gotten colostrum or not.  Anyhow, three or four days after it was born, Phil found it lying off someplace by itself and the mother was showing no interest at all.  So he got it to the barn and called me for advice on bottle-feeding a calf.  The calf wouldn't get up, so he was bottle-feeding it lying down (a big no-no in my book... if I can't get them up, I tube-feed them).  It would take a few sucks, then spit the bottle out.  He'd force the bottle back in its mouth, it would suck a little... but it would not hold the bottle in its mouth without help.

I gave him what advice I could and thought very little about it for a couple of days.  Then I told Cliff, "I think I should have offered to tend that calf for him until it's to a point where he can sell it."  

Cliff called Phil and told him, and he said he would be right over with the calf.  

Phil has COPD and asthma, and he was having to bend over the calf trying to force-feed it the bottle in this hot weather and having an awful time breathing.  So he and his wife were very happy for my offer.  Meanwhile, when it comes to raising calves, I love a challenge!

I have a way of making a calf stand up whether they want to or not, so while Phil and Faye watched, I made him get up.  I straddled him facing forward and poked the bottle in his mouth, and he behaved in the same way Phil described.  The only difference was that I had him on his feet.  He would not, however, hold the bottle in his mouth and suck for any length of time.  With patience, I was able to get a full bottle down him, which was more than Phil had been able to do.  

So now I was milking half a gallon of milk twice a day from Penny before I turned three calves in with her, and pouring it into a calf bottle.  

There are two kinds of calf bottles.
Most people prefer the bottle on the left:  the top screws on easily and the milk flows freely through the nipple so that the calf is done nursing in about 60 seconds.  I have never cared for that one, though.  It lets the calf get too much milk too fast.  I would rather take a little more time and let the calf get his milk at the speed Mother Nature intended.  The bottle on the right has a snap-on nipple, which is difficult for a lot of people to put on.  I've probably put those snap-on nipples on thousands of bottles in my time, so I'm an expert at it.  Now, when you buy a new nipple it does let the milk through very slowlly, so I always cut the opening a little larger.  Still, it never lets the milk come out as fast as the screw-on bottle does.  I'd say it takes a calf at least five minutes to empty it.

I had a hunch Blackie would do better with a snap-on nipple, but I seem to have lost the nipples for that kind of bottle, so I used the other one.  Today, though, I picked up a couple of those nipples.  Tonight, using a bottle with that nipple, the calf sucked eagerly without me straddling him and forcing him to hold the bottle in his mouth.  If I took the nipple out of his mouth, he came forward searching for it and found it with no help at all from me.  

I love it when things work.  

He's a big, strapping bull calf.  We just want to get him healthy and vigorous enough so Phil can sell him.  He does have one flaw:
His right eye is cloudy.  He seems to be blind in that eye.  

However, in today's market, if he has nothing else wrong with him, he'll bring a pretty penny.  He's 100% beef, and that is a big plus compared to the dairy calves I raise for myself.


Margaret said...

You are wonderful to do this for Phil, but as you said, you also like a challenge! You are the Calf Whisperer. :) Glad that your plan is working.

Jon said...

Fascinating story and amazing insight. I learn things here. And I like the photos of Blackie.

Sister--Three said...

Miracle worker!

Back Porch Writer said...

Glad you got it to work


What a wonderful story. I am glad you came to his rescue. He looks like a sweet fella. I hope he grows to be strong and healthy. You have found your calling.

Barbara In Caneyhead said...

Experience is the best teacher and patience is very necessary when tending a sick animal. Phil is blessed to know you.