Nursing question

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GANGGREEN

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OK, minor tragedy here. I left for vacation and ended up having one 3 month old calf get out and get hit by a car, which was the first type incident I've ever had with my cattle and on the same day, I had a two day old calf turn up missing. He was eventually found the next day and was dehydrated and starving in a ditch across the road. I've never had anything like either one of these incidents and for two of them to happen on the same day on the very day that my family and I left for vacation makes me wonder if the kid (20 years old) who was taking care of things around here might not be telling me the whole story.

Anyway, the mother of the two day old calf was a second calf cow and she was an extremely good mother the first time around. I saw the calf for the first day or so before leaving and I believed that she was nursing OK and behaving normally, though I guess I couldn't guarantee that I actually saw her ingesting milk. Being as we were away, we asked the kid to call the vet when we found out and that I trusted the vet's advice in regards to both calves and advised him to do as he was told by the vet. It turns out that she suggested putting the vehicle victim down, which they did, and she took the then 3 day old calf home with her to tube feed since it was very weak and had no suckling response at all.

When she got the little heifer home she decided that with work she was able to get it to take milk from a bottle but she never had confidence that it was strong enough to be put back on the mother. The vet didn't know the mother cow anyway and wasn't sure whether she'd take the calf back or not. I advised her by phone to please try as the mother was a good cow and good mother but I guess she decided that it was a lost cause.

When I got home 4 days after the vet took the calf, I was thrilled to find that it was quite healthy and rammy and that it had gained weight. I immediately took the calf back to the pasture, though the vet had no confidence in any sort of reunion and, lo and behold, the calf eventually began to nurse on her mother. She definitely seemed to be doing it right but she nursed for a long time and I'm not sure if she was just hungry since she hadn't been fed in nearly 12 hours or because she wasn't getting much milk. Well, long story short, she's been with mother for nearly 18 hours and she seems content and well-fed but I'm horrified that she might not be getting enough milk.

I don't want to bottle feed her on the side for several reasons but I don't want her going downhill either. My questions are two-fold. First of all, how long does it take for a beef cow (Highland in this case) to dry up, and assuming that she did partially dry up, will the nursing stimulate better and more milk production? I appreciate any thoughts, answers or anecdotes to ease my mind or educate me about such things as I really don't know the answer, never having dealt with this sort of thing before. Thanks.
 

Kathie in Thorp

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Wow! What a mess you had! Well, I am absolutely not a fountain of knowledge for you, but I noticed those who are hadn't responded yet. Not all cows will have the same lactation pattern. It sounds like your vet is pretty sharp, so I'd suggest you address those questions to her; and she may want to look at the cow. Good luck!
 

hillsdown

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Keep an eye on the calf, if she starts to look weak or not gaining weight then intervene, but right now try benign neglect.

Best of luck
 
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GANGGREEN

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Thanks for the responses. The little one seems to be hanging in there and is spending some time up feeding or following mom but plenty of time chilling too so I think she seems fine. For the time being, I'm going to follow hillsdown's advice.
 

chippie

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When a calf is with it's mother, it will eat at will - meaning nursing when hungry and stopping when full.

When a bottle calf is fed at 12 hour intervals, it is ravenous because it is so hungry, so it will stuff itself (or overeat if given the opportunity.).

If the calf wags it's tail while nursing, it's getting milk. The calf nursing will stimulate the cow to make milk. When the udder is empty, that signals the cow's brain or whatever to make more. That is why when you dry a cow up, you don't milk it. The milk staying in the udder tells the cow that the milk isn't needed, so don't make any more.

I'm sorry about your bad luck and am glad that this one is on the mend.
 
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GANGGREEN

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Thanks for the response and advice chippie. It's been a day and a half in the pasture and I haven't given the calf an ounce of milk from a bottle and she still seems content and healthy. Obviously, I'm beyond thrilled that things seem to have fixed themselves.
 

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