- Aug 26, 2014
Hello, I'm getting two bred holstein heifers due in April soon. I'm going to use them as nurse cows for our beef herd, if anyone has some tips on nurse cows and training I'd be glad to hear it!
I assume these aren't pets, and that they don't love to be petted all over? I would certainly recommend getting them both accustomed to the stanchion and the routine months before they calve. Give them a week or so to settle in to your place and then start working with them. Don't go too fast and try to end it on a good note each time and never loose your cool. Be gentle but firm. Lead and reward with grain. Don't lock her in the first time she puts her head in the stanchion, let her get good and comfortable after doing it several times, even a dozen times or more, before you lock her in. While she's in the stanchion, give her grain, pet her, brush her, get her used to you and and her surroundings and being in a stanchion. Make her enjoy the time in the stanchion. Cows have a natural instinct to kick if anything but their calf touches their udder. So as you're petting and brushing, inch your way closer and closer to her udder. Over several training sessions when you finally get to the udder stay there for just one stroke before quickly and smoothly putting your hand back to where she's comfortable with. Optimally, she didn't kick. In this case, gradually work your hand back over again, and repeat. Slowly increase the ammount of time your hand spends there, and eventually start playing with the teats. If she kicked, firmly tell her "no," make eye contact, and then don't try touching the udder again until next time. Eventually, if you go slowly, she won't kick when you touch her udder and teats. I've trained two of them like this and I can hand-milk them both without any grain or treats occupying their attention, they just stand there calmly in the stanchion chewing their cud. They certainly weren't pets when I started with them. They both would sniff my hand out in the pasture but otherwise didn't want anything to do with me. They're both sweet hearts now.
We've had success every time we've tried to get a cow to adopt a calf. Usually it was a beef cow that lost her calf, but a couple times we put two calves on a Holsein. We put the cow in a head catch and give her grain in a pan. Meanwhile, we tie up her near rear foot (if you tie it back far enough she can't kick with the other foot either, or she'll loose her balance) or we use a Kow Kant Kick (from Jeffers). While she's eating grain (don't let her run out!), we put the calf on her. We do that three times a day. Eventually she starts behaving well enough that we don't restrain her from kicking (but are poised and ready to jerk the calf out of the way if she starts to kick). Soon she graduates to a pan of grain in the pen, no head catch, with the calf nursing. Shortly thereafter she lets him nurse whenever he wants and she moos to him and licks on him, and we let the pair back out with the herd. The longest this process ever took for us was 13 days (likely because it was an older cow who had always had black calves and we were trying to convince her to take a red baldy, LOL). The shortest was 3 days (she was very maternal and loved calves, and he loved milk, so they kinda hit it off, hehehe). On average though, 7-10 days. During the bonding process we keep the two of them in a small pen or paddock (1/4 acre or so), separate from the herd.
You may notice that I mention using a lot of grain, but my sig says "no grain." For the dairy, I've switched to using organic alfalfa pellets, which don't work as well as a treat or reward as grain, but there are certain health benefits of 100% grassfed milk that I'm after. For the beef cows, we use organic grain in this rare scenario. The calf doesn't get any grain, just the cow for a short period of time.
Thanks I've been able to put calves on beef cows but only when their calves die and are really upset. These heifers are not very friendly apparently (the owner has said this because I do not have them yet). Would a holstein be able to handle 2 calves after her first birth?
I will be giving them barley twice a day once in the morning and once in the afternoon. This is what we do to fatten up our beef yearlings before auction. I'm going to mostly give to tame them though but I will give them some to help them with milk production
Since I haven't got them yet do you think this is a good idea to get two bred Holsteins? The owner sent me pics and they look healthy and both have been preg checked. One is from a dairy and one is from a regular farm.
Are there any important questions I need to ask the owner?