Calf won't Suckle! *Updated with PICS*


10 Years
Jul 14, 2009
The Beautiful Pacific NW ,WA
We recently(Sat.) bought a newborn(ambi. still wet anyway) Brown Swiss calf. He was bright eyed & healthy looking, is quite stocky and felt like he had eaten before he was brought to the auction. Problem is that he refuses to suckle, on anything!

he went poo(solid) yesterday but after that is was all scours. We finally had to tube feed him after hours of trying to get him to suckle. the first feeding we got 2 pints of milk & 2 pints of a scours recipe we have(works great btw!), he finally peed during the second feeding, which we took as a good sign. After 3 feedings, he has been up, about & mooing at the other cows.

Problem is, we don't want to continue to do this even though he is doing much better now. Does anyone know any tricks or anything to help teach/get him to suckle??

I will get pics up later today of him. Thanks for the help.


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Keep trying to give him the nipple, just hold it in his mouth and rub his throat. I guess when you said he wont suck on anything you have tried with your finger and he still will not suck? Patience and perseverance is the key. Just keep trying. He may need to get a little hungry before you try again. You may be making it easy for him to feed without him working for it. Let him get a little hungry and try just putting your finger in his mouth.
I agree that sometimes you just need to let them get a little hungry before you offer them the bottle. There have been a few over the years tho that just refused to suck on a bottle no matter what.
I hope you can get him going! I had one in my garage for 5 days that never would suck, I let him get plenty hungry, he was only getting enough to stay alive. But when he started searching under my dog for dinner, I took him back to the cow, he latched on and they've been great since (actually I tested him on my cow first, didn't want to give him back to mom if I was going to have to take him away again). I know that's not an option for you, but in the 5 days I was never able to get this one to eat for me, I hope you have better luck!
I have never bottle raised a calf before, but have done it to many goats and I agree with the above posts about letting it get hungry enough to work for the food. Thats what we always had to do with the goats. Then once they realize what happens when they suckle from the bottle, they become eager to do it anytime they see it. Just getting started is the hard part. Keep trying and be patient.
Thanks everyone, we will try that tonight. We have raised tons of bottle babies in the past but never had one that wouldnt suckle..just a few sickly ones that were too weak.

we'll let him get hungry
Is his temp normal (101 - 101.5)? Sometimes I have found that scours can be a sign of pneumonia. If he is running a fever, he made need an antibiotic. Tube feeding can make the throat sore and then a calf may not be as inclined to drink. I know that tubing is a necessity and have done it myself. When I have a calf that refuses to drink, I will skip a feeding to increase desire. Then tube at the next feeding if calf won't drink. I have "penned" a calf in the corner using my body to keep it alongside a wall and just tried to keep the bottle in the calf's mouth. Sometimes they decide that maybe they are to suck on it and get something. I tend the calves on our dairy farm (over 100 calves a year) and know that there are times you can get a real stubborn one. Keep perserving.
I've raised lots of calves of different breeds and Brown Swiss are BY FAR the most stubborn. If they've had a chance to nurse mom, it seems like they're ready to hold out until mom comes back. We would skip one, sometimes even two, feedings, and usually by that time they will come around.

I'm also a big fan of Peach Teats. The calves seem to take to them much better.
We named him "Phillip" by the in 'fill-er-up'

Does anyone know where to buy a Peach teats nurser bottle from? I found some online but it'll take a week to get here.

We missed 1 feeding and he looked like he was going to die(no kidding). he wouldnt get up and was sprawled all over the ground. He moos back at the big cows so i think that he nursed momma before we got him and he's just being extremely stubborn. We did get about 1.5pints down him, he was just swallowing though, and wiggling his tongue all over the place.

If he is still doing well by Saturday, I am thinking we will probably take him back to the auction & get a different calf, maybe there will be a heifer then.

..if we do take him back the little monster is going to have a big sign on him..."my name is Phillip & i love teats"

Thanks for the help everyone. we are going to keep trying to get him to suckle & use the bottle since we do really wanna keep him but if he wont, i can't see tubing him all the time, i know its traumatic for him.
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