Sunday, 6 December 2015


We collected a new calf yesterday morning from a Jersey dairy forty minutes north of us.  A very hot day was forecast so we left home early to beat the heat for the calf traveling in the back of the ute on the way home.
Rosie's mum is  a Jersey cow who was artificially inseminated  (AI) with semen from a Murray Grey bull. The resulting calf from these cross breedings is suitable for breeding,  beef for the table or as a future house cow for a small farm like ours. eg  Lavender. We are not clear what Rosie will be used for in the long term, but at present she will use up some of our excess milk and we hope that either Daisy or Lavender will foster her.
Lavender needs to learn about being a foster mother and we will watch with interest how she will react to a new calf. We already know that Daisy will eventually accept a new calf if we allow her to take her time, at her own pace. As we have both of our cows running together for ease of paddock rotation, either of the cows is a contender for taking Rosie.
Meanwhile, Rosie is being fed milk from the "Calfeteria".
When a new calf is brought in from another dairy we always quarantine it for the first 24-48hrs depending on the condition the calf is in.
Some calves come from dairies that take the calf from the mother on the second day after the birth. These calves are generally in poorer condition because they have not had the mother's colostrum for long enough to build their immune system properly.
In these cases we quarantine the calf for longer as it usually develops a gut imbalance resulting in Calf Scours, thin yellow watery motions that can easily turn into a serious gut bacteria issue which will spread to other calves in their proximity. The feeding for the first few days with these calves is vastly different to how Rosie is being fed today.
Rosie was born last weekend so she was one week old when we collected her yesterday.
Although she was taken from her mother at one day old (this is normal practice on dairy farms whether we like it or not) the dairy farmer fed her with her mother's colostrum, through a calf feeder, for the first four days of her life.
Consequently, Rosie is in good shape, bright eyed, shiny coat,and with good solid dark manure motions. It's all about the poo! The first thing I look for is the colour of the poo.
However, I must not make the mistake of over feeding her with milk at this stage, so she is getting two feeds per day, morning and night, of two litres of milk at each feed. I need to be careful not to over load her little undeveloped gut, so I am diluting her feed with water at a measure of one and a half litres of milk with half a litre of water to make it up to two litres. To this I am adding a tablespoon of garlic water.
To make garlic water; 2 cloves garlic crushed in a jar and cover with one cup of water. Shake and let it steep all day or overnight.
To each feed add one tablespoon of the garlic water to the milk in the feeder.
You can continue to top up the jar with water and use for approximately another four feeds before adding more garlic and water.
I will continue to observe the colour and texture of her poo and if it remains normal I will gradually dilute her milk less each day until she is drinking full cow's milk, but I continue to add the garlic water.
If her poo becomes runny and pale or yellow in colour I will add yogurt to each of her feeds and dilute it again.
Tonight she will start getting one desert spoon of Dolomite in her milk feeder for the minerals Calcium and especially Magnesium which helps to prevent calf scours. The Dolomite powder will sink to the bottom of the feeder so she will take in only some of it when I swirl my hand around in her feeder or shake it up a bit while she is drinking. So I won't need to add Dolomite again until it is all gone from her feeder, usually two times a week.
There is no need to wash out the feeder every time it is used, but I make a practice of removing it from the calves and hanging in a sheltered place. These feeders are very expensive and ours is now ten years old, but still going strong because I look after it well. We replace the teat though, usually one teat will raise one calf for four months duration before it wears out or the sucking thing inside deteriorates.
The residue milk in the feeder becomes "yogurted" and provided ants don't find it,  I believe it is not harmful to the gut of the calf because we add yogurt to their diet anyway when we want to heal their gut and build good bacteria. I make a practice of thoroughly washing the calf feeder (calfeteria) once a week.
As she gets older I will add more milk to her feeder, but for these first weeks I need to stick to feeding her less rather than too much until her stomach develops.
Soon she will start running with the other cows and maybe start suckling from one of them, so that is another reason why I should not over feed her right now.
This weekend is extremely hot with temperatures hovering around 44 degrees for the second day, so Rosie needs to learn how to drink water from her water bucket.
She is obviously thirsty because she greeted me at the gate and started sucking my fingers. She had her milk feed three hours ago and I won't be feeding her milk until this evening so I led her to her water bucket and gently lowered my hand into the water.

While she is sucking my fingers she is getting the water from the bucket. I let her suckle until I estimated she drank enough, but not too much. Approximately one litre.
Every two hours today I am repeating this watering process, but after the last water feed she stood and played with the water in the bucket so I think she is realizing where the water is and that it magically goes into her mouth if she sucks at the same time.
 When rearing any baby animal I like to simulate nature as closely as is possible so you will notice how low I have placed the calf feeder so that Rosie needs to bend her neck to drink. This is how she would be drinking if she was suckling from her mother and this position is important for the development of her rumen and abomasum.
This is her small yard where she is safe and can not hurt herself. There is a small shed for shade and shelter from rain, and although she is not yet eating solids I have provided hay in a small calf hay rack for her to play with and put into her mouth as there is no green grass available at this time of year. A water bucket is filled and tied with wire to the fence so she can not tip it over. It is best not to use twine in calf yards because they love to chew it and it can cause serious issues if swallowed.
The other cows and Blossom have been talking to her through the fence since yesterday and if her poos are still looking healthy tomorrow morning, when I feed her, I will let her run out in the big paddock with the  cows all day.

It is so hot outside today and I am hosing the chooks, pigs and checking Rosie every two hours.

  The pigs have a puddle to wallow in next to this water bath for the purpose of playing in. It is not their drinking water container.
Their drinking water is concreted into the ground in the shadiest corner of their yard so they can not tip it over and be at the risk of not having water to drink.

Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out on days like today. This dog is not silly.
Meg pretends that she is not sleeping on the spare bed as she refused to lift her head for the photo.
"I'm not here. You can't see me"

And Alan is asleep in the passage where we have to step over him whilst going about our day.

Isn't it lovely having new babies on the farm?
How's the weather where you are? What extra measures do you take when the weather is extreme?
For the sake of the animals and my garden I'm wishing for a break in the weather and maybe a drop or two of rain, but that is a fairly unrealistic wish for South Australia at this time of year.
Thanks for visiting. :) 


  1. Rosie is lovely! I absolutely love baby calves and having one bottle-tame is fun too. We use a similar bucket with a teat, so much easier than a bottle once they get the hang of it, no supervision required. Lots of great advice in this post, I hope Rosie gets adopted by one of your cows. They seem to do so much better when they have a "mum" to lick them and love them, humans can only do so much as a replacement.

  2. We let Rosie in with the cows this evening after milking. Neither Daisy or Lavender are remotely interested in having another calf suckling, but it's early days and I have my fingers crossed. :)

  3. Oh my goodness, Rosie is adorable! I have always wanted to keep cows and your post just makes me want one more. I'm sure Rosie will be very happy in her new home and look forward to seeing her grow in future posts.

  4. Rosie is so pretty, I hope she does well and settles in nicely.We found that a Murray Grey bull was the best for our little farm, the steers always bought the best price at sale and the young cows were sweet natured.
    When we put an extra calf on a cow we would put Vanilla on its head and rump and Vanilla on the cows nose,it masks the smell of the new calf and she will allow it to suck, you have to start off this procedure in the bails, for the first few days.
    It is best to introduce the new calf asap and of course the colostrum intake is very important.
    The Vanilla routine can usually be stopped in a few days when the new calf smells the same as the cow's baby as the cows milk is now well in it's system and fur, poos and urine all smell exactly the same.

    This method worked for us many times,

    1. Great information Margaret. We've tried Vicks in the past and also rubbing a little bit of the afterbirth onto the brought in calf. (Kept in the freezer and thawed for this purpose.) In all of our efforts we found that the cow has accepted the calf on her own if she already has a suckling calf. The new calf sneaks in from the back while the cow's own calf is drinking. Sneaky little things. I think your method would work really well for introducing a new calf to a cow that hasn't got her own calf with her. I'm writing this one into my ideas book. The good news this morning is the sight of Rosie suckling on Lavender from behind after we let Rosie join the others last night after milking. Wow, looks like Lavender is going to be a fine foster cow for us.

  5. Yes,we would get a second calf within a few days of a cow having her own calf and soon both babies would smell the same and be accepted.


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