The Baby Calves
Since we are on the topic of calf care, i figured I’d share more about how the baby calves are treated on our dairy. The above picture i think is a good representation of how much we care for the calves. I can assure you that the above picture is not the angel of death, but one of our employees (he wanted to remain anonymous). He was carrying the baby to its new home.
Calf care makes up a significant portion of the work on our dairy. We feed them milk and water twice a day, feed them grain, nurse sick ones, and periodically add fresh bedding to keep their houses warm and dry. Separating the babies may seem cruel to some people, but i can assure you, we have the calves best interest at heart. The calves are housed separately to create a warm, dry, healthy environment for the calf, and to ensure that it gets the best possible nutrition during its first weeks of life. Because calves have weak immune systems during their first weeks of life, it is critical that they develop and grow strong and healthy in their individual houses.
Calves that are left with their mother usually do not receive an adequate amount of colostrum. When we house them individually, we can help them get the right amount of colostrum and nutrition. Colostrum is the cows first milk after having her baby, and is rich in nutrients and antibodies to help strengthen the immune system.
The following two pictures show the calves in their pens. The calves after a few days learn how to drink freely from the bucket which is filled with milk two times per day. When there is no milk, we provide them with water so they can keep hydrated. The picture with the pens shows the long line of pens. There are a lot of babies on our dairy! The picture of the pens was taken this winter when it was raining. The pens have roofs that flip down to protect the calves from the rain. After the rain stops, we flip the roofs back up so the calves can soak in the warm California sunshine. California sunshine is definitely one of the key ingredients to raising healthy happy cows.
The environment we provide for them, aims to keep the stress low, the environment clean, and the food nutritious to develop the strongest calves possible. Sick calves develop much more slowly (read about Webbzy), its in our best interest to ensure they grow well!
4 of my sisters feed calves every day, and love taking care of the calves. They spend a lot of time with them giving them all names. I was going though my picture file and couldn’t find many Holstein calves (the black and white ones). It seems like they like the Jerseys the best (the brown ones) because those were the only pictures i could find!