Nurse cow tips

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Farm Girl 1, Sep 15, 2014.

  1. Farm Girl 1

    Farm Girl 1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    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!
     
  2. Cowgirl71

    Cowgirl71 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    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. ;)
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2014
  3. LeviS

    LeviS Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Subscribing, may do something similar in the future
     
  4. Farm Girl 1

    Farm Girl 1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    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?
     
  5. Cowgirl71

    Cowgirl71 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I think that would depend a lot on whether or not you grain them and also what kind of condition they are in when they calve. If they are in good condition when they calve and you were to give them each maybe 5-10 pounds of 14% grain/day then yes, I think they can raise two calves just fine. My guess is though that without the grain, on 100% grass, they won't be able to. If they do, the calves will be small and the cows will be rundown and open at the end of breeding season.

    I've recently learned myself with my Jerseys just how much of a difference a small amount of grain makes in their milk production. I would get 2.5-4 gallons/day when I was giving them 5-10 pounds of 14% grain/day with milking. But 13 months ago I switched them to a few handfuls of alfalfa pellets. The same cows now give 1.5-3 gallons a day. So even that small amount of grain makes a huge difference in their milk production.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2014
  6. Farm Girl 1

    Farm Girl 1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    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
     
  7. Farm Girl 1

    Farm Girl 1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    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.
     
  8. Farm Girl 1

    Farm Girl 1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Are there any important questions I need to ask the owner?
     
  9. cassie

    cassie Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote: I've seen Holstein milk cows fed an all grass diet and no grain. They don't look so good. They don't milk very well, either. The owners thought they looked fine, though. If a dairy cow doesn't get adequate nutrition she will rob her own body so she can continue to make milk. If you want a milk cow that will do fairly well without grain, see if you can find a Milking Shorthorn.
     
  10. Cowgirl71

    Cowgirl71 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That sounds like it will work well. Barley is on average 10-12% protein so I'd give them a little more though. With that extra TLC they ought to do just fine with two calves each. I'd suggest keeping an eye on their condition though and being ready to up the barley if necessary.



    What are they bred to? I assume something that is calving ease.

    Do you have any intention to ever hand-milk them? If you do, look at the teats. There are some dairy cows these days that just have nubs for teats, they're impossible to hand-milk. The longer the better, within reason, if you're planning to ever hand-milk them.

    Are any of their quarters blind? Sometimes they'll freshen and only 2 or 3 of the 4 quarters produce milk. This is not optimal but can be okay. They're less valuable though. If one quarter is a dud they're worth about 75-80% of what they're otherwise worth. I bought a Jersey heifer one time that was 5 months bred from a grassfed dairy and the gal had had a vet come out and check all the heifers' udders and so she guaranteed all 4 quarters were good (which they were). So apparently the vet can tell if all 4 quarters are good long before they calve. So that's one thing I'd consider asking about.

    Me personally, I'm very cautious at bringing new animals on to the farm, especially from a sale barn, commercial dairy, or someone who routinely brings home animals from either of those places. You risk bringing something into your herd. We got burned once when we bought two Holsteins in June from the sale barn that were from a commmercial dairy. That fall and the next spring we lost 6 young calves and had to doctor many others for deadly fast-acting strains of scours (fall) and pnuemonia (spring) that we'd never seen before. Meanwhile the calves of the same age in the pastures the Holsteins had never set foot on were just fine. So now we only buy from people we trust, and even then we keep it to an absolute minimum, basically just virgin bulls for new blood and occasionally a healthy young calf to put on a cow who lost her calf. So if it were me, I'd ask how long the guy has had them, and are they on pasture rather than in confinement (more likely to not bring something in if they've been on pasture). Just because of my experience, I'd also keep them quarantined for a while from the herd in an area you don't keep young calves in, just so they can maybe shed any pathogens they have away from your herd.

    Also, I re-read my first post and I just wanted to clarify that if it sounds bossy in any way I certainly didn't mean it to. I was in a hurry but should of taken the time to package it nicer. That's the downside of typing vs. talking in person, sometimes it doesn't come across like you mean it to. Obviously, feel free to ignore parts or even all of it you'd like, they're your heifers. ;)
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2014

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