Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Feeding Baby Calves, or a Tutorial in Not Getting Goosed

When we got our baby calves last week, we decided we'd try bottle feeding them.  We figured that would be the most natural way, especially since we'd essentially be feeding them cow formula twice a day.  So off to the farm store I went, coming back with these:

Byron checks the temperature of the milk replacer.  They each drink four pints, twice per day.

A little backwards, but here Byron prepares the milk replacer.  The water has to be heated to 110 degrees, which is easy if you begin with hot tap water.  Then we take the water off the burner and mix in the powdered milk replacer a little at a time.  It only takes a few minutes, and by then, the milk is down to about 105 degrees...perfect for feeding.

Baby calves drinking from their cute.

Still pretty cute...then a bottle began to leak.

Notice Byron's position in relation to the fence.

Prime entertainment for the kids, especially when Daddy got goosed several times when he was trying to tighten the nipple onto the bottle (I promised Byron not to post a photo of that)!

Notice Byron's position in relation to the fence now...

...and how the calves have also pushed his arms back.
After putting in many fence posts by hand, Byron has farm muscles a-plenty.  I have farm muscles a-puny and maybe a couple lingering from when I used to run (gotta get back into that).  Though we can get wire hangers for the bottles, we decided to go the Mr. Woodward/Laura Ingalls Wilder route and use buckets:

Ah, much better.  Now the only thing getting abused is the fence, and the fence can handle it!
The bucket method was almost too easy to teach the calves: dip your hand in a little milk, let them suck your fingers, and lead their head into the bucket.  Now the green buckets are Mommy, instead of Byron, and everyone is well-fed and happy.  Byron also used ziplocks to portion out five days' worth of servings for their feedings, so all we have to do is grab a bag when the water is heated.  We feed them at about 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., which isn't too time consuming, but mentally, it's an adjustment.  Though I imagine Melvin or Mr. Woodward would help us out in a pinch, we're pretty much tied to the land until they're off the milk replacer (3-4 months), and pretty soon we'll be rotating them to fresh pasture every day or two. 

Is this a downside to sustainable living?  What do you do when you need to be out of town?

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