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What to do when your cow won’t accept their calf

What to do when your cow won’t accept their calf

In most calvings, the cow’s maternal instincts will kick in and she will know how to care for her calf.

However, sometimes things don't go that smoothly. A cow can be confused, cold or downright aggressive towards her offspring.

There are a few things you can do to remedy this, but first off, a distinction needs to be made; is your cow confused about what to do or is she hostile toward the calf?

This is important when trying to come up with solutions later.

Who is prone to this and why?

If a cow has a c-section, this can mean the release of maternal hormones, particularly oxytocin, isn’t triggered properly. If the mothering process is interrupted before she licks the calf the likelihood for rejection increases.

First-calf heifers in general produce less oxytocin than cows that have had previous calves.

Additionally, you see this a lot when a cow loses a calf and they go on to reject their replacement calves.

OXYTOCIN-PRODUCTION-COW-HEIFER

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Licking the Calf

After calving, cows generally lick their calves clean. If your cow is reluctant to start cleaning and nursing the calf, you may need to prompt her.

You can do this by pouring something on the calf’s back to encourage the dam to lick them.

Grain will work, but there are other products marketed for that purpose. This should help the cow’s maternal instincts kick in and get her to accept the calf.

COW LICKING CALF MOOCALL

Forced Nursing

Helping the calf nurse is a good way of getting the cow’s maternal instincts to kick in because it helps the hormone come on board and improve maternal behaviour.

If the cow won’t let the calf nurse, you can force the cow to do so by putting her in a stall or the chute.

Before you let the calf nurse, you might want to tie up or secure the cow’s hind legs with a set of hobbles to stop the cow from kicking or walking away. The last thing you need is for an aggressive cow injuring her calf.

First-time calvers that act aggressively or confused, will often change their mind after nursing.

NEWBORN CALF NURSING ASSISTANCE DAM RESTRAINED HEADCATCHER REJECT MOOCALL

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However, if they continue to act aggressively, it may be easier just to bottle feed the calf.

Consult a vet on the matter, as there may be a medical issue either in the cow or the calf that needs looking at.

Make sure they have plenty of room

Leaving the cow and calf alone reduces the risk of the cow getting distracted by other members of the herd. This can disrupt the bonding process between the cow and calf.

Moocall's Calving Sensor can make a big difference to your cow accepting her calf so you can be there in good time to see how their bonding is going and if you need to intervene.

Have you ever had difficulty with a cow or heifer rejecting their calf or replacement calf? Let us know in the comments below!

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