After a full day of chores and butchering our last 27 (of 400) meat chickens, I was daydreaming about what I would do with my new found 2 free hours a day. Then there was a familiar knock at the door.
What was my Old Timer doing here so late?
He told us about a cow he was tending to with a week old calf that was not doing well. She was his partners, but he tends to the day-to-day management of the cattle. The cow had 2 previous calves that did not survive, and if this one didn’t get on the bottle, that would be her fate as well.
He explained that she had a full bag and would allow the calf to nurse, but the milk was bad. The calf wasn’t getting any nutrients. He didn’t have time to bottle feed right now, and if he couldn’t find anyone to take her…
Well, there went my new found 2 hours of free time.
The next morning, we loaded up a crate and went to get the calf.
We headed out to the pasture and found the pair. The calf was skinny but bright eyed. We cut in between the two and Fred scooped up the calf, jumped in the back of the gator, and we took off. The cow followed us a bit and I jumped out to close the fence just in time.
We got her in the crate and looked her over. She was skinny, showing her spine and ribs, but not dehydrated. Her ears hung a bit, but her eyes were clear. Then we found maggots on her anus. Old Timer sprayed it with some worm spray to kill them until we could get her washed off.
Old Timer tells me not to name her until we’ve had her a week. My reply? “Well Sasha, isn’t that the silliest thing you’ve ever heard?! ” He and Fred groaned.
At home, I washed her backside and thankfully that took care of that. The maggots were less than 12 hours old, so we got her just in time. I mixed up a cup of formula for her and got ready for a fight. The last time we had a bottle calf, he didn’t want anything to do with the bottle–he wanted his momma! Sasha was hungry and took to the bottle instantly. Whew!
We moved her into a barn stall next to Trudy and the piglets. Until she was eating well and having normal poops, it was better to have her on her own.
She hadn’t had any nutrients in her system, so we started her slowly on feed. Usually, bottle calves start with 1 quart of milk two times a day. Sasha started out with 1 cup four times a day. She wasn’t too happy about it–she wanted to eat! The next day another cup was added, and another the next day, until she was up to 2 quarts split into four feedings a day. Starting her too fast could have lead to diarrhea, which is another whole issue to deal with.
When you read up on bottle feeding, they talk about proper positioning of the bottle, amounts to feed, weaning, and such. They sometimes talk about leaving right after feeding because the calf will want to eat and chase you around, sometimes head butting you. Yes, Sasha did this. She sucked on my arm, pant leg, boot, whatever she could get a hold of. And she would but me with her head, sometimes in my crotch. It’s not that annoying or painful, so I’d stick around and play momma.
While I can’t, and don’t, lick the calf as her momma would, I do what I can to help groom her. She gets rubbed down from head to toe–literally. It’s not as good as a momma licking, but it helps to stimulate circulation and digestion. The other benefit is getting her used to being handled. When you have a sick or injured animal, the easier it is to handle them, the easier your life will be.
Her first full week went well. During feedings, I would wipe down her backside to get any poop off to keep flies to a minimum. This is something her momma would do as it also stimulates pooping.
After week one, Sasha had normal poops, so I moved her in with the herd. On a day I was home all day, I did her morning feeding with the herd. After she ate, all was well as she cautiously inspected everyone. I watched for half an hour and decided she was ok. When I checked back in an hour, she was gone.
Being a baby still, I knew she would search out tall grass to hide in. And since I left the fence up from when the other calves would go in the tall grass, Sasha made her way there. Once she saw the bottle, it was easy to get her back in and lower the fence.
Slowly but surely, she began to put on weight and gain more strength. She slowly moved closer to the herd and followed them out to the pasture. June Bug and George still weren’t too friendly with her, but they tolerated her well.
At week two, she was looking ready to find a new home. I would’ve loved to keep her, but we are right where we want to be with our herd as far as breeders. With a face like this…
…it didn’t take long for someone to fall in love with her.
Sasha is off to her new home with a new brother to keep company. Thanks for coming into my life little girl; you will be missed. Now to enjoy my new found 2 hours of “free time” a day until the new chicks come in 3 days.