Feigning Twins

Curdle and Breezy are faux twins to my milk cow, Sienna.

Break time is over! Our family milk cow had her calf over the weekend, putting me back to work. We welcomed the new bull calf, Curdle, to the farm and promptly made him into a steer. Sienna’s now had two heifers and two bulls since I’ve owned her. 

This time around, I decided to put a second calf on Sienna to help with her milk production. Usually, I don’t find this necessary. I normally just milk out whatever the newborn calf doesn’t take. However, our family’s annual trip is coming up in two weeks, so I will not be available. When a calf is about six weeks old, it can keep up with my cow’s production. In past years, I’ve always made sure our annual trip coincided with Sienna having a calf on her that could do the milking for me. However, my plans were foiled this year whenever Sienna did not get pregnant during either of the two rounds of artificial insemination we tried. Thus, I knew her calf would only be two weeks old and unable to, literally, swallow the four-gallon-a-day load that Sienna offers.

Curdle and Breezy nurse from Sienna while she’s in the stanchion. Share nice now!

Solution? Let’s put a second calf on her to share the bounty! The day Curdle was born, we purchased a week-old, Holstein/Angus cross heifer to bring home to Sienna. I was hoping to convince Sienna straight away that she really had twins. I washed the new calf to get some of its old scent off. Then I poured some of Sienna’s colostrum all over her. I had penned up Curdle while we went to get the new calf. When I returned, I put Sienna in the stanchion and let both calves nurse from her.

Separating the calves overnight, I then put Sienna into the pen with them in the morning. She let both calves nurse, but only because her own calf sidled up next to her (so she could smell it), and the other calf was nursing from behind. As long as her own calf is nursing, Sienna doesn’t try to kick. However, if only the other calf tries to nurse, she will kick it away. Apparently, I failed to convince her that she birthed twins. It probably doesn’t help that the calves are completely different colors and genders. 

Sienna nurses both calves.

My goal is for both calves to be able to nurse from Sienna freely while they are all out in the pasture together. I should be successful, as long as the new calf makes sure to eat at the same time as Curdle. But, hopefully, as the new calf nurses from her, and starts to smell like her, Sienna will eventually accept it as her own. She’ll think, “Maybe I really did have twins.” Two is better than one, right?

I named the new calf Breezy. Breezy earned that name on her way home. We had her in a large crate in the back of our pickup truck. Instead of laying down, she stood up with the wind in her face almost the entire hour-long ride home.

Of course, just because Sienna has “twins” now doesn’t mean she’s off the hook for supplying our milk. When I need milk, the calves will be penned up overnight. The next morning, I will milk a gallon from Sienna first, and then let the calves have their share. Doing the math, that leaves one gallon for me and about a gallon and a half for each calf on the days I choose to milk. That’s plenty. On non-milking days, they should get about two gallons each. Hopefully, they won’t fight over it too much.

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