Calf will not drink!

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olerustyplow

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I took on a 6 week old twin calf from a dairy farmer friend of mine. She is very, very small for her age. She has what I would call a bulldog jaw, her bottom jaw sticks out a little more than her top jaw. My problem is that she will not drink unless I have my finger in her mouth! It is so fustrating. I will try to pull my finger out and she raises her head and bawls and looks for me. If I just leave the milk and leave, so goes and eats pellets. She eats about 1 lb pellets a day, and I am feeding her 1-1.5 gallons of milk a day. I can't figure out if she has a physical problem drinking or if when the egg split she didn't get any smart genes. Has anyone ever had this problem before? I am tempted to wean her cause she eats a lot of pellets for her size, but I am worried she doesnt know how to drink at all.

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olerustyplow
 

msscamp

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My experience with a calf this old is that it is going to be difficult to get her to suck a bottle. The bottle nipple is much different than her mother's tit and that's where the problem is coming in. Is she also eating hay or just the pellets? Is she in a corral or on grass? What kind of pellets? If she is on grass, eating hay as well as the pellets I believe I would just work on gradually increasing her pellets and forget the bottle although she is a little young to not have milk. Same thing if she is eating a good quality hay along with the pellets. Another option would be to sprinkle the dry milk replacer on her pellets. That way she will still be getting the vitamins and minerals, but you don't have to fight her to get her to drink a bottle. Another option would be to try to bottle her with a sheep's nipple. It's smaller than a calf nipple and might do the trick until she adjusts. Something else that I have done with fairly good results is to coat the nipple with molasses or maybe karo syrup. Calves like sweet and it will sometimes encourage them to suck. Be careful with the sheep's nipple because if she takes to it she can suck the nipple off the bottle, I wouldn't use it any longer than necessary to get her to nurse without your finger in her mouth. Just my thoughts.
 
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olerustyplow

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Msscamp,
Actually I have her on a bucket. Should I revert back to the nipple? When I got her from my friend he had moved her to the 'bucket calves' already, and she drank a little for him, but he was worried she wasn't going to make it. Anyway, I just went up to the barn after leaving her with just milk (no pellets available) and she still didn't drink! ARG! So I helped her drink again and just as soon as she drank the whole bucket she goes to pellets and eats like crazy. I just don't get it. :( I thought that drinking in general would be an inborn thing, that is why I wonder if she can't physically drink. I dunno. I don't want to kill this calf any more than my friend did, but I just don't know what to do. I can't keep my finger in her mouth all the time.
 
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olerustyplow

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Oh and she is on 'Fast Start TCR' pellets from southern states. She is in the barn in a big stall now. She will eat hay if I give it to her, right now I am feeding alfalfa/orchard grass. I acutally havent been giving her much hay though. He had her on a bucket for at least 3 weeks as far as I know. He usually bottle feeds them for a week then moves them. She did get colostrum and he said she sucked from the bottle real well. When I got her from him she was pot bellied but still spry.
 

msscamp

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olerustyplow":1h4l9vjk said:
Oh and she is on 'Fast Start TCR' pellets from southern states. She is in the barn in a big stall now. She will eat hay if I give it to her, right now I am feeding alfalfa/orchard grass. I acutally havent been giving her much hay though. He had her on a bucket for at least 3 weeks as far as I know. He usually bottle feeds them for a week then moves them. She did get colostrum and he said she sucked from the bottle real well. When I got her from him she was pot bellied but still spry.

I believe I would go back to the bottle since she sucked it so well. The nipples are better shaped and easier for a calf to suck as opposed to the straight, long nipples that generally come on a bucket. (At least, any bucket I've ever seen) As she is 6 weeks old, I believe I would be giving her more hay, free choice in some kind of feeder. Start out with one or two flakes and adjust from there based on what she is eating. You might also consider getting her out of the barn if possible. She needs fresh air and sunlight, also barns tend to cause problems since sunlight destroys germs and bacteria and never gets inside a barn. She also needs a little room to run and play.
 
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olerustyplow

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I have her on a plain ole bucket, no nipple or anything. She will go to the bucket, stick her nose in it and then look for me to help her drink. Am I being bamboozeled? :)

I did let her out to play with my other calf today. She really enjoyed it. I am going to do the same tommrow. I will give some hay too in the morning.

My other calf (from the same farm) drank out of a plain bucket just fine, learned how to drink without a nipple quick. This one, on the other hand, is giving me fits.
 

msscamp

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olerustyplow":24rveno4 said:
I have her on a plain ole bucket, no nipple or anything. She will go to the bucket, stick her nose in it and then look for me to help her drink. Am I being bamboozeled? :)

I did let her out to play with my other calf today. She really enjoyed it. I am going to do the same tommrow. I will give some hay too in the morning.

My other calf (from the same farm) drank out of a plain bucket just fine, learned how to drink without a nipple quick. This one, on the other hand, is giving me fits.

I believe you are. There are people on this board that will argue with me, but I personally wouldn't do what you are doing. I would either have that calf on a bottle or a nipple-bucket. Probably a bottle. When it comes to drinking from a bucket some calves catch on and some don't. I've read a few articles that said drinking from a bucket is not really the way to go. There is something about actually nursing that causes a fold of tissue to unfold, thus blocking the milk from going into the rumen and allowing it to go straight into the stomach. I'm not absolutely clear on what I read, but it made enough sense at the time that I would not train a calf to drink milk from a bucket.
 
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olerustyplow

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That is funny you mention that, because my sister in law just told me the other day that she read an article that calves need to suck for a certain amount of time to develop thier stomachs or something correctly.

I think I will get a bottle tommrow at SS and do that. That way I don't have to keep my hand in the milk the whole time, and she will have a fighting chance of becoming a good pet for me. :)

Hopefully she will grow up and figure out how to drink water from a bucket.
Thanks Msscamp
 

msscamp

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olerustyplow":1uffr8va said:
That is funny you mention that, because my sister in law just told me the other day that she read an article that calves need to suck for a certain amount of time to develop thier stomachs or something correctly.

I think I will get a bottle tommrow at SS and do that. That way I don't have to keep my hand in the milk the whole time, and she will have a fighting chance of becoming a good pet for me. :)

Hopefully she will grow up and figure out how to drink water from a bucket.
Thanks Msscamp

I'm quite sure she already has the water figured out! ;-) You are very welcome! I hope your baby grows up to be a big, healthy, beautiful cow! :D Nursing is important, if they can't nurse they tend to suck ears, tails, etc. I wish you the best with your baby!
 

Linda

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Double check for a cleft palate by feeling the roof of her mouth with your finger. If she appears to have a jaw deformity, it's possible she also may have some degree of cleft palate.
 
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olerustyplow

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Linda I wondered about that actually. If she does have a cleft palatae what do I do? I sorta think she does have one, but I will check when I feed today. If she has one, does that mean she will never grow out of it?
 

cfpinz

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If you cant get her to drink from a bottle, there is a pelleted feed some people around here use called Calf-Manna. Its basically pelleted powdered milk the way I read it. Might be a good alternative if she refuses milk but likes pellets.
 
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olerustyplow

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I guess I should have been more clear when I wrote my first message. This calf will drink well with a bottle (nipple), it is that she will not drink on her own, without me putting my finger in her mouth. I am trying to train her to drink from a bucket. She has been off the bottle for about a month, and I am unsure if I should put her back on the bottle, because she will not drink her milk from the bucket at all. I am also concerned that she does not know how to drink at all. Like if she grows up as a cow will she be able to drink without me teaching her to drink from a bucket without a nipple.
 

milkmaid

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I'd just leave her on the bottle. There are some calves that never do learn how to drink (milk) from a bucket. She'll figure out how to drink water just fine as she gets weaned, trust me. ;-)
 

Linda

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olerustyplow":teiczfe2 said:
Linda I wondered about that actually. If she does have a cleft palatae what do I do? I sorta think she does have one, but I will check when I feed today. If she has one, does that mean she will never grow out of it?

I don't have an answer for you. I just recall reading that certain types of head/jaw deformities often go along with a cleft palate. I would have a veterinarian do a quick exam if you think the calf does have a cleft palate. There are varying degrees of cleft palate. Some totally divide the palate and extend up into the nose. Others are just a slightly open palate the animal tolerates relatively well. A vet could advise you as to degree and prognosis. My thinking is having your finger or a nipple in her mouth might actually be sealing off the cleft and allowing her to drink more easily - if she does, in fact, have a cleft palate.
 

shorty

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The one farmer I get calves from taught me a new trick to bucket train calves . Instead of sticking your finger in their mouth , take a nipple from a bottle dip it in the milk and stick in their mouth and put their mouth in the bucket , it works pretty good and it saves your fingers.
 

ctlbaron

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If it's eating good I wouldn't worry about the milk. Most folks wean bottle calves off around 8 weeks if they are eating good anyway. The plain bucket is the best way to feed them in my opinion. They do just as well without all the hassles of the bottle. Get some good sweet calf starter for it and just keep an eye on it. When some of them start eating good they lose interest in the milk.
 
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