Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bottle Baby

Bottle-feeding a calf
Photo-op for a farm visitor
One of my summer jobs on the farm was feeding the calves from a bottle (no nipple, just the bottle) and eventually teaching them to drink from a bucket. The calves were taken from their mothers after birth and fed their mother's milk via a bottle. (The fresh cow's milk was not added to the pipeline and mixed with the rest of the herd until her milk was deemed ready by my mother.) Some cows were "canners" which meant their milk was always expressed into the can for the calves and never added to the bulk tank. The calves were bottle-fed for about a week or until they would suck on the bottle and/or fingers. Once that was accomplished, then it was time to teach the calves how to drink the milk from a bucket and wean them off the bottle. Sometimes this process was a smooth one; other times, not so much.

To begin the bucket process, I entered the pen with the milk in a bucket and let the calf suck on my fingers. Then, I straddled the suckling calf, and with the other hand position the bucket under the calf's nose, gradually lowering the nose into the milk. Slowly, I removed the fingers the calf was sucking. If I was lucky, the calf would begin drinking the milk from the bucket, if not, the process would start over again. Sometimes, the calf would butt his head in the bucket, and both of us would be covered in milk.

The calves were fed milk and hay twice a day.

7 comments:

  1. That doesn't sound like an easy task. Why were the calves taken away so soon?

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  2. Once with my cousins we let a calf suck our fingers so we could ride him....it was pretty nasty but fun.

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  3. That must be fun to do! I grew up in the city..so I never got to enjoy animals like that!

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  4. That's a job I think I could handle. I think calves are so cute and I wouldn't mind letting one suck my fingers. Also, what's a little milk bath between friends?

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  5. I probably don't appreciate our farmers enough... personally, I thought milk came in a waxed cardboard carton! Laughing over here...

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