Since the baby bull calves were each about four days old, we’ve been bottle feeding them. I have definitely learned some things in the last few weeks, and wanted to share this knowledge.
Do’s and Don’ts for Bottle Feeding a Dexter Calf
*Feed the calves mama milk if possible
It’s the healthiest option, and cheapest–replacement milk for calves is expensive!
*Expect the first three feedings to go horribly wrong
The calf wants his/her mama. You are shoving a rubber nipple in his or her face. Expect some pushback.
*Expect to get dirty
Get into the pen and straddle the calf. Use one hand to offer the calf your fingers to suck on. While the calf is sucking, slowly use your other hand to slip the nipple in. It’s a messy, slobbery process!
*Squeeze some milk into the baby’s mouth
*Repeat a few times until the baby drinks at least a cup. (Pretty soon they will be scarfing down a half gallon–but get at least a cup in before you give up.) Bigger babies might go for a pint instead, but a cup works for my little Dexter calves.
*Hold onto the nipple for push on style bottles.
The calves can pull them off! I found screw-on style and like those better.
*Hold the bottle where it can be pushed up into your neck
Calves headbutt to get their milk. It’s how they trigger letdown in their mamas, and they do it to the bottle too. It will hit you–don’t let it hurt you!
*Forget to pay attention to poo
Scours is hard on a baby calf. Runny, yellow poo is a symptom, as is poo sticking to the rear end. Thankfully I haven’t experienced this with my Dexters, but think feeding them mama milk helps!
*Get mad at the calf
This is a hard process for them too–don’t yell and certainly don’t hit the baby cow for acting like a cow.
The calf will eat when he gets hungry enough. Keep trying until everything clicks, and then enjoy this time with the calf.
If you’ve bottle fed a Dexter calf before, what lessons can you add?