Adopting a New Calf Part 2

Ollie is now about a month old and has been accepted by his new mama.

Great news! Sienna has finally fully accepted Ollie. As I wrote about last week, the process of getting my milk cow to adopt a new calf has been more time-consuming and frustrating that I had expected. However, in the end, Sienna bonded with the calf, Ollie, and will now let him nurse whenever he wishes.

I’m not sure what finally changed Sienna’s mind about adopting the calf. For too long, she was adamant that he shouldn’t nurse off of her unless I forced her. Perhaps it was my persistence, Ollie’s persistence, the realization that her own calf was not coming back, getting used to a new routine, or all of the above. However, I’m very relieved and grateful that the two are now a pair. 

It took nine days before Sienna let the calf nurse off of her by himself for the first time. However, she was not consistently letting him do this and would still mostly kick him away. It took almost three weeks before she would let him nurse any time he tried. She seemed to be more willing in the morning than the evening. So, I would have to go out and make sure the calf got his supper. But, on the evening of day 19, I went out to the barn and saw that Sienna had already been drained. Finally, the calf had eaten supper on his own.

I have to milk out whatever Ollie doesn’t finish.

Another reason I had to supervise the adoption process every morning and night when I first brought the calf home was because Sienna had more milk than the calf could consume. Young calves don’t drink very much milk compared to how much a dairy cow will produce. When I brought Ollie home, he was about 10 days old and was drinking just under a gallon of milk a day. Sienna produces about three gallons a day. I had to milk out what Ollie didn’t finish. 

Now, Ollie is about a month old and is able to consume almost all of Sienna’s production. This is also good news for me. 

My goal in getting Ollie was for him to “milk” Sienna most of the time, so I only had to milk her when I needed the milk. This is how I had it working with Sienna’s own calf before I weaned him. Whenever I need a gallon, I separate the calf from Sienna overnight, milk out my gallon, and then put them back together. It works great and is easy.

I’m now almost eight months pregnant, so I don’t have the energy to be milking morning and evening every day. I could have dried Sienna up, but it’s really too soon to do that. She’s only been in milk for about five months. She won’t calf again until around July. Plus, I would still like to have her milk when I need it. 

Now, with the new calf, Sienna will stay in milk, and I’m raising a steer that I can sell when he’s old enough. (Yes, we banded Ollie, so he’s no longer a bull.)

Ollie is a member of the herd now. It’s good for him to be with our other cows and learn social skills.

When I was having trouble getting Sienna to accept the newcomer, I read another blog about grafting a new calf onto a milk cow. It basically stated that as long as you have a Jersey, you won’t have a problem getting a mama cow to accept a new calf. They are supposed to be very motherly and, if anything, it’s harder to get them not to let any calf nurse off of them. I’m sure many Jerseys are this way. My previous Jersey, Callie, was very accepting of the orphan I grafted onto her. However, Sienna was definitely not an easy sell. I think it’s wise to realize that all cows are different and not everything goes smoothly or as expected. 

I read another article on the same subject that said if you are persistent, it might take two days or two weeks, but, eventually, the mama cow will accept the calf. That article seems more realistic.  

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