Need advise on newborn calves

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May 7, 2004
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I had two cows calve yesterday morning about nine o'clock and today the calves still have'nt located the cows teats to nurse. How long should i wait to try to steal them and give them a bottle. Also they have them out in the pasture in the sun it is in the upper eightys. Is there any danger in them getting to hot ? Thank you all for your help.
Are you absolutely sure they haven't nursed? They can be sneaky at times and when you look away they steal a drink. Are the mommas bagged up? Are the teats clean and/or shiny? Is the hair around the teats matted and/or curled? These are signs the calf may have nursed or al least tried to. Is the calf drawn up and hollow looking in their stomach behind the ribs? If so then you need to act immediately!!! I wouldn't take them away from the mothers and bottle feed unless absolutely necessary. Put the mommas in a squeese chute and 'teach' the calves how to nurse if you can. If not then milk mommas into bottle and nurse calves until they are strong enough to want to nurse, then show them. If you don't have a squeese then you could use 2 gates but it is more dangerous.


I am speaking of recent experience, I just had a calf die from no milk!!!
Best way I have found to sigure out if a sneaky calf has sucked is to remove them from mom for a few hours. When you put the calf back in he should go right up and suck. I just haul the horse trailer out, out em in there and come back later and swing open the door and have a seat. They needed colostrum ASAP, but your a little late for that. Just hope they are sneaks!
Sidney, Thanks for your reply, One of the calves is just started nursing but the other one has not. He sucks on side of his mothers udder. He won't put his head down low enough to find her teats. She has a lot of milk making her udder hang pretty low. She is real protective right now and can't get her to do nothing. If i catch her lying down and give him a bottle until he figures out what he is doing will her milk still be ok?
In past years I have had problems with first year heifers. Also with just plain dumb calves. Both can be serious problems. In my experiences I have found that the longer you wait the worse that things get. You have an uncomfortable mom with a full utter, and a calf that may not even realize that it is really hungry. As soon as I am aware of the fact that the calf is not eating I make it an effort to get the mom and calf into a small pen. Sometimes this is all it takes to help the calf to nurse. (No way for the mom to leave) Sometimes it is just a matter of our heifers not being still long enough for the calf to find the teat. Other times we have to put the heifer in our squeeze or even just 2 pannels and help the calf to a nipple. They usually only need this once or twice. We modified one of our pannels so that there is a section of bar missing. This helps when our squeeze is not available. (we don't get kicked either) Just put mom in and help baby with the rest. Give the mom something to eat, this seems to help keep her co-operative.
I agree that I wouldn't try to bottle feed. If you do make sure to milk mom to give her some relief and also to give the calf the nutrition that it needs. I have had to milk mom and bottle feed the calf before for a few feedings but all the while trying desperatly to get it to eat off of mom.
Don't forget about mastitis. You don't want that mom unnursed. ( excuse all the bad spelling :)
Keep us posted! Good luck!
You said the calf is not putting his head low enough to get the teats? Was this an unusualy large calf? If so then there may have been a long or difficult birth and the calf may be a little 'dumb', if co you will probably have to help it nurse untill it learns. But, like I said before if you have not done anything yet and the calves have got nothing to eat then it is probably already to late. Do you have a pen and chute? can you use panels to restrain the cow? Are the cows aggressive? Let us know how it all turns out.
Thanks to everybody for all the help,
One calf is nursing and the other still has'nt figured out to look under the udder. He is a pretty long legged calf. He was born backwards vet had to come out and pull him but he came right out vet said he was fine. I have him out now and been bottle feeding him. He seems to be doing pretty good except being a little weak. Thanks again for all help.
sometimes they are nursing only one or two and can't take them all. i had one this year that went 2 weeks without nusing the front two but he was fine and healthy. there is alot of swelling the first week or two and it is hard to tell.
Sometimes those big dumb calves just lay there - or look like they are trying to suck and just do not get latched on. But, they are persistant and make it. Usually there is no problem - just an over anxious owner - but - to be safe this is what I do.

If you are not sure and are worried - run the cow up the chute and into the squeeze.

Then - yes this works - put some food colouring on her tits - if the calf sucks it comes clean. :D

I usually have to rope one and do this about every two to three years - it has never let me down yet.

Best to all,

FYI... a "dumb" calf is one born somewhat mentally retarded from not getting enough oxygen to the brain because of a difficult birth or other factors. I humans, the mother is at the hospital and the baby is on a monitor and in many cases, these things can be prevented. I had a cow have a dumb calf this year. It was terribly malpositioned and it took 11 hours to deliver. The young cow was way too robust to ever lay down for help and I must take five meds at night that don't allow me to stay awake for emergencies. In the morning we thought we were pulling a dead calf, but as soon as I got my hand in and found where the head was and moved it (it wasn't easy) the calf finally came out....alive, but dumb. It's tongue stayed swollen for two days and tubing and bottle feeding and medication didn't help. It was really dumb.