Young calf is addicted to the ‘white stuff’...


Calving has gone relatively smoothly, since the tragedy of last week’s stillborn calf. Most of the calves born since, have been to experienced Mums, who have needed no assistance to bring their progeny into the world.

But the latest calf born was rather undersized and struggling to keep up with Mum as she ambled back and forth from foldyard to silage face.

This did not go unnoticed. A few of the calves in the yard were born in early autumn.

Too young to be weaned when we brought the herd home, they came into the yard with the rest of the cows.

So far we have not done anything about separating them from their Mums although it has been one of those “to do” jobs that briefly nag at John’s mind in between important matters. Like the shooting season.

But one of these calves has just overstepped the mark.

His own mother’s milk is probably starting to dry up by now to start the natural process of weaning. This particular calf had clearly acquired more than an average liking for “the white stuff” and started to look for an alternative source.

Which was presented to him by this dilatory, neglectful cow, who seemed unable to differentiate between giving her own calf a drink and letting a boisterous young bullock take advantage of her.

It had to be stopped as the newborn calf was being deprived of vital nutrients.

Easier said than done. There are a lot of cows in the yard. Getting them excited at this stage is not a good move.

Young calves can easily be trampled if the herd starts on a mini rampage and cows are quickly spooked. Earlier this week we had to be very careful when inoculating a group of heifers for rotavirus. Our vet had eventually been able to source a limited supply of the vaccine for us, but only enough for ten cows. None of the main herd had been inoculated before calving as our vet could not get the vaccine. Instead we have administered a nutritional paste to supplement Mum’s colostrum to new born calves. Hopefully the cows will have passed on a measure of immunity from when they were inoculated themselves last year. Jabbing the heifers had gone very well. John waited until each of them fed at the silage face, them walked them into the crush. Gate closed, quick jab, job done. Could this errant calf be dealt with as easily?

No it couldn’t. We attempted the job twice and failed. Only succeeding in stirring up the cows and creating a dangerous situation for the young calves. Then success. The bad boy ( not John) was standing with it’s Mum near the gate leading to the bullocks yard. John quietly walked past and opened the gate up. Curious the cow followed him, with the calf behind her. John then about turned and shooed the cow back into the main foldyard and shut the gate in the calf’s face. Hullabaloo to follow.