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Maternal Instincts

We were happy to find 2 new calves when we arrived home from our trip to Great Britain at the end of August (more about our journey later). Our fall calving season begins about the first of September as we do not like to have new calves born in the heat of summer. Every calving season brings it’s own challenges and freshening new heifers can be one of them.

Freshening means bringing first calving heifers into the milking herd for the first time. They are usually about 2 years of age at the time of first calving and are experiencing many new things in a very short time.

Giving birth to a new calf can be traumatizing. Then they are expected to come into the milking parlor with their new calf and be milked by machine for the first time. The calf can’t drink all the milk the mother produces. Patience is required of the herdsman at every step.

Just like human mothers, not all cows have the same level of maternal instinct. First calf heifer number 2680 (she will get a name when the crew knows her better) is a good example. Yesterday when I came into the dry cow pasture she was cleaning up her placenta. This is something that almost all animals do to keep predators away from their young. Her bull calf was with the rest of the dry cow group, and did not appear to have been licked or cleaned off like it should have been. I helped the calf to walk over to it’s mother, but she proceeded to butt it away. We did what we normally do in that case and brought her into the head gate and brought the calf to her and helped it nurse. She allowed the calf to nurse just fine, but when we released her to be with the calf she butted it again. The crew will try again this morning. Thankfully we have many cows in the herd that will accept another cow’s calf and allow us to graft this new calf onto her. This will be our next step if 2680’s maternal instincts have not kicked in soon.