Birth is one of the most exciting times on the dairy. It’s also one of the most critical. Like newborn human babies, calves are more susceptible to diseases, require first milk (colostrum) and need extra care. Each of our farms takes special precautions and care with all calves, from birth to weaning.
In this post we will discuss how the traditional farm cares for calves from birth until they are weaned. Jenny Baerwolf cares for all of the calves on the traditional farm.
What happens after a cow has the baby?
Jenny: After calving, the cow and calf stay in the newborn pen until the cow leaves to get milked. The calf is then taken to the calf barn. In the winter, calves are placed immediately into the warming hut and in the summer they are taken to a clean, new pen in the calf barn.
What are the babies fed?
Jenny: Each calf is given 1 gallon of its mother’s colostrum at birth. If mom doesn’t give a gallon we use a colostrum replacer. We then skip the next feeding. Our calves are fed milk replacer and are fed twice a day, at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., 365 days a year. They drink a 1/2 gallon of milk replacer at each meal and they always have clean, fresh water available. At 10 days of age I introduce grain, they are also trained to drink their milk out of a pail.
Another aspect to raising healthy calves is consistency, consistency. Cows are like big cats, they are creatures of habit. Calves like to be fed at the same time everyday, with the same amount of milk and at the same temperature of 104 degrees.
How do you keep calves comfortable?
Jenny: I strongly believe having fresh, clean water available to my calves at ALL times is one of the secrets to raising strong, healthy calves. Also, we use lots of straw for bedding. The babies like to snuggle up in the straw and sleep. It is very important to keep the calf’s hair coat dry and clean. It keeps them insulated.
When are the calves weaned?
Jenny: Typically, I wean at 6 to 8 weeks of age. The calves are are moved to a group pen; we have three weaning pens. Their pen is a large open area with two feeders, a hayrack ( they get hay for the first time at weaning) and a water tank.
Calves are very demanding! They are born on our farm 24/7, 365 days a year, there are a lot of them and they very challenging to raise, but I LOVE THEM! They are the future of our farm, now who wouldn’t want to invest in that!
Stay tuned to learn about how we care for our calves on our organic farm.