Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska
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Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska

Taking Care of Bottle Calves

August 2, 2012Animal Well-Being, Dairy, Farmers and Ranchers

Growing up I loved to visit my cousins on their dairy farm near Wayne, NE. I thought it was so cool that they had bottle calves to take care of and I always wanted one. Since my Dad didn’t let me have one, I had to get my fix when I visited my cousins. Now that I have grown up, I still think bottle calves are pretty cool.  However, I have a new appreciation for what my cousins did and still do on a daily basis.

This past weekend I visited my cousins and volunteered to help them with calf chores.  Little did I know what I was getting myself in to. I remember when we were little they had around 40 bottle calves at one time. Since then, they have expanded.  Therefore, chores meant taking care of over 140 different calves.

I soon realized that I never really understood exactly what doing calve chores meant, but I soon found out. While one person went around checking and making sure all the calves were healthy, the other person gave the calves some “sweet feed”. Sweet feed is a special type of feed that is given to the young calves because it is fortified with important nutrients they need.

After everything had been checked and fed sweet feed, it was bottle time. I love holding a bottle and coaxing a baby calf into drinking from it.  However, I was extremely grateful that we didn’t have to hold all 140 bottles. The claves have special huts that keep them warm in the winter and cooler in the summer. These huts also have a place where you can place the bottle and the calf can drink without someone having to hold the bottle for it.

Of course there were several calves that hadn’t quite gotten the routine down which meant we had to show them where the bottle was at. These huts are quite spacious for baby claves but not quite tall enough for me to be able to stand up straight while helping the calf discover the bottle.

I still think bottle calves are pretty neat, but I have a new appreciation for my cousins’ work on the dairy farm. Although it isn’t easy and is very time consuming, taking care of the calves has always been and will always be a top priority for my cousins.