Newborn calf not nursing...

Help Support CattleToday:


Well-known member
Nov 8, 2005
Reaction score
Central Oklahoma
I saw the thread on bottle feeding.... My problem is I don't WANT to bottle feed. Here's my story...

Middle of last week, I had a calf born. It seems to have been born strong, but within the first day it was going through a gate and lost its footing. The other cows kept coming and several cows ended up stepping on the newborn while it was down. The first day, the calf I don't believe ever got up and as a result I don't believe ever nursed.

We found the calf the next morning laying flat in the pasture, weak but still alive. We took it to a holding pen at the house for care. We milked the mother cow and tried to get the calf to take a bottle. It would not. So for the next several days, we nursed the cow twice a day and force fed the calf down a feeding tube. Well day 3, the calf started getting up and walking some. By today (day 5) it is now up and walking around a lot and appears fairly strong and healthy. It is having normal peeing and pooping action. Not showing any signs of scours. Also this morning, it started sucking a bottle for the first time. So as of today, we are milking the cow and feeding the calf on a bottle. All things considered, the calf is doing much better.

So my question is this. How can I get the calf off the bottle and back on the cow? Anyone have any suggestions as to what to do from here?

Thanks in advance.
RanchMan90":jm7oabht said:
Pen them together in close quarters for a few days. Works well with my nurse cows.

That's what I did with a 1st calf heifer that wouldn't claim her calf. We supplemented with a bottle but the calf was persistent and after almost a week all was well. That said, make sure the cow doesn't show any aggression and you may have to put the cow in the chute & physically get the calf latched on.
Put the cow in the chute, get the calf up next to her and on the teat so he can figure out that the milk comes from the cow, not the bottle. Since you have been milking her,and feeding it to the calf, the calf's manure will smell right to the cow so she should claim it. Then when the calf is done, let them out into a pen together and watch her to make sure she isn't mean to it. If all goes well you should be able to see the calf on her nursing as soon as he figures out that's where he needs to go for his meals. Sometimes you may need to keep him separate from the cow for the time in between a feeding or two, and then when you put them together he should go right to her. It might take 2 or 3 feedings in the chute til he learns she is the source of milk as he has imprinted that you are the "mother"/milk source. Sounds like the cow is pretty good to work with. Good Luck.
I crate the cow as if I am milking her. Get the calf nursing the bottle and pull it to the udder from the opposite side. Sneak a nipple into the calves mouth. Awkward at first but the calf starts nudging and soon it is all history.