What Does a Calf Eat?

From Guest Blogger Lacey Papageorge

Congratulations are in order for Lacey who was just named one of our 2013 Utah Dairy Ambassadors!

Just like a baby humans, baby cows (called calves) drink from a bottle to get their food. It is important that in the first 24 hours of life the calves must drink colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk produced by the mother cow. The final 30 days that the cow is pregnant, she is working to produce colostrum, which is full of antibodies for her calf. Calves are born with no immunity. They need to consume colostrum so they are less vulnerable to disease.

An early morning (chilly) calf feeding

An early morning (chilly) calf feeding

For the first few weeks of a calf’s life, it is fed out of a huge bottle. We measure out how much milk each calf will get each time we feed to be sure that each calf gets enough to drink. While bottle feeding, it is important to be very patient, especially if the calf is very young and new to bottle feeding. Calves are strong so, you must hold on to the bottle tight! When the milk starts to run low, the calves often will nudge you. This is caused by instincts to nudge their mother’s udder to induce milk let down. Once a calf is older, they will begin to drink out of a bucket.

Feeding calves is fun, but you cannot do it without getting milk and some slobber on you. Like doctors, we wear rubber gloves, when bottle feeding so that it is not as cold when our hands get wet. The calves are feed milk twice per day – once in the morning and once at night. They also have a grain feeder, so they can snack on grain as they please. After they are six weeks old, they are weaned (taken off milk). The calves are then given hay and grain.

Measuring for calf bottles

Measuring for calf bottles

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