Two Orphan Calves

There is lots of new life on a farm, occasionally death, and once in a while there are orphans. Right now we have two orphan baby beef calves. It often feels like misfortune comes in bunches. The saga started one bitter cold, icy evening about four weeks ago.  Just before nightfall,  Gene went out to feed hay and a heifer came across the field with a newborn calf in tow.  She didn’t appear to want anything to do with the calf and neither did she appear to have much of an udder. Apparently the calf went in search for its mama and followed her up to the barn. A cow will often stash a calf in a safe spot so it can sleep and gain it’s strength while she grazes the first couple of days. She will go back often to check on the calf and let it nurse. The calf appeared more than a day old as the navel had already dried and was very perky as if it had nursed and gotten the mama’s colostrum. He penned them up together in the hay barn for the night.  A little later in the evening we went back out to check on them and the “supposed mama” did not seem to be interested in the calf which was lying across the pen nestled against the hay. Gene gave the heifer some grain as a distraction just in case so he could feed the calf a bottle of milk with the lights on the truck. IMG_7067 IMG_7072 We began to wonder if this was really the mama.  The “real” mama would have been protective and would  not have been happy with him messing with her calf. The next morning he went to the barn and fed the calf again. He checked all his mama cows and heifers to see if there was one bawling for or searching for her baby. He put the calf out with the cows to see if anyone claimed it. They came around and sniffed but no one seemed interested in claiming the little gal. He checked the fields see if there was a mama down or dead that he had missed.  He could not find anything but it was becoming more and more evident that the “supposed mama” was not the mama. He brought the calf home and put it in a calf hutch bedded with straw. Orphan #1 very quickly adjusted to the bottle and lets “papa” know when it is feeding time!

This past Saturday when Gene went out to feed the cows, he found one of his older mama cows down on her side and unable to get up. She had laid down on a hillside and had somehow ended up on her side. This is a fatal situation for a cow if not found soon enough. He tried but was unable to save the mama and now suddenly he had another two-week old orphan calf.  This time it was a little white-faced bull. By the time a calf is two weeks old they have gotten their running feet under them and are very spry. Gene took backup help and while he distracted the calf  Tim eased up behind the calf and with a lunge caught the little rascal about the mid section.  They hauled him up to the barn and put him in the hutch with the other calf.  It is rare to have to bottle-feed beef calves but now he has two to feed!  It is reminiscent of dairy farming days. IMG_7301 Baby calves are fed two quarts of warm milk twice a day, morning and evening.  The first couple of days he used whole milk from the grocery store and then eased them on to Purina’s Herdmaker milk replacer.  It is very important not to overfeed a calf or they will get sick and die very quickly.  It didn’t take long for these babies to adjust and they very eagerly look forward to breakfast and supper. IMG_7302 IMG_7305  


  1. Fiona Said:

    Will you try to graft these calves onto a cow that has her calf die? With my short horns I always seemed to have a cow that would adopt an orphan. Good luck with the two of them!

  2. Pat Said:

    No we won’t as that never seems to work. You have to catch a mama right away and rub her placenta on the calf you are trying to get her to adopt. And seldom do you have the right situation at the right time. They will just be hand raised!

  3. I just feel sad for all threebut you allare sogood to your farm A

  4. Pat Said:

    Gene made a comment about my response to you Fiona. Last year he was able to get a cow to successful take an orphan. But that doesn’t happen easily.

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