Monday, January 16, 2012

Weaning a Calf

Sunny, our little heifer calf
Sunny, our little calf has recently begun weaning. She will be the second calf I have had to wean here at Novellas Farm. 

On large farms, (commercial dairies) cows are kept on a constant cycle of pregnancy, birth, milking and back to pregnancy and milking. You will notice there is no nursing mentioned. The calf is normally taken from the cow immediately, and bottle fed or sold off the farm.
The only reason to breed the cow is to  keep her milking, not to be a mother.

The first calf  born here at Novellas Farm, was Clovis, Novellas little bull calf. I got down to the pen right after he was born and what I saw made it clear, a calf and cow have the same sort of bond as any mother and child. Novella lowed in almost a whisper, licked him dry and nudged him to nurse.

Each day they grew closer and closer. I let Clovis nurse on Novella for the whole 7 months he was here, (yes, he is gone, living with his own Jersey wife named Hazel, because no matter how soft a heart I may have, a bull can not stay with his mother and sister! that is just WRONG)

A calf will run to its mother,  circle around her, rub his head on the soft skin hanging from her neck, and dash behind her to start nursing, afterwards he will follow her around and she will lick him clean. A happy calf will run and buck, rushing at things and play. That is what I like to have, happy animals. I have been lectured about letting the calves nurse too long, that I am giving the calf the milk that should be for me,  and that I should bottle feed the calves!
Mattie and Sunny
After a calf is born here at Novellas Farm, the two stay together constantly for 3 months, I let the calf have most of the milk during this time. At 3 months the calf is put into a separate pen, right next to his mother at night. I milk the cow in the morning, and the two are together all day. Following this schedule I can still get around a gallon of milk a day (more than enough for my family).

Sunny is now 5 months and actually getting a little fat, so.....

Back to the weaning, we are taking it slow, some days Sunny just can't bear it, she moos and moos, and watches mom til I just decide, "OK, let them be together a bit." Every day I will do this a little longer, then one day she will stop, and they will  be together, Sunny a big girl and her mom Mattie.

I know that part of my actions come from my own experience, (yes, when I nursed my babies). Sounds silly, yet who knows? Why would these mothers and babies feel differently? My time breast feeding was so special emotionally, and physically. I am going to be honest, I love my cows and want them to have their time with their babies too!

This freedom, to treat my animals the way I think an animal should be treated, to be able to provide  my family nourishment in a way I feel comfortable about. This is one of the reasons I love running my own
Clovis, Novellas bull calf
small farm, it feels good. It is good.

OK, gotta go milk!

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