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Farm Life – Foster Calf 101

Dexter cross Jersey steer calf

Little Sausage is now an orphan calf and still needing milk.  My husband’s health is unpredictable (he needs major surgery in a city hospital and he has been in and out of hospital every 2-3 weeks for months) so bottle feeding calf milk replacer to Sausage is going to be logistically very difficult.  Luckily Matilda, my sweet black Dexter cow is still nursing her heifer calf Sassy, so I am attempting to foster Sausage on to her.

I’ve bought Matilda and Sassy up to the top paddock so that it’s easy to get Matilda into the crush.  Matilda is a lovely sweet natured Dexter cow but there is no way that she will stand still long enough for Sausage to latch on and feed at the moment.  Fingers crossed that the lure of a bucket full of tasty grain will outweigh her natural aversion to letting a strange calf drink from her.

Orphan calf
Calves will try to suck anything they can get their goopy mouths on

Our first attempts have been successful so far, the biggest problem was actually getting Sausage lined up in the correct spot.  Now anyone who has handled calves will know just how easy it is to move a calf just where you want it.  For everyone else, let me just say that it’s like trying to move a 50 kilogram wet noodle.  With attitude.  Especially when said calf drops to the floor and plays dead when you try to drag it to the milk bar.

Yes seriously.

Its a jersey thing, and Sausage is the second one I have seen do this ‘drop and play dead’ jersey behaviour.

However, everything that I have been through with our cows over the past few years on this farm has taught me both patience – and immense stubbornness.  Which is very lucky for Sausage who has now had several good feeds and a full tummy!  Its early days yet and I do need the pair of them to eventually work it out for themselves without Matilda having to be restrained in the crush with a kick-stop, but I am feeling quietly hopeful that we can get there eventually.

Black dexter cow and foster calf
Matilda accepting Sausage being close by (she’s not really such a funny looking cow – photo distortion is due to using my phone camera
Dexter heifer calf and cow
Matilda feeding her dexter heifer calf, Sassy
Success despite the awkward angle!
Success despite the awkward angle!
Dexter cow fostering jersey calf
This photo shows just how little Matilda is – and she’s on the big side for a Dexter.

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