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The Raising Of Calves

Category: History and Breeds

It has been found in practice that calves properly bred and raised on
the farm have a far greater intrinsic value for that farm, other things
being equal, than any that can be procured elsewhere; while on the
manner in which they are raised will depend much of their future
usefulness and profit. These considerations should have their proper
weight in deciding whether a promising calf from a good cow and bull
shall be kept, or sold to the butcher. But, rather than raise a calf at
hap-hazard, and simply because its dam was celebrated as a milker, the
judicious farmer will prefer to judge of the peculiar characteristics of
the animal itself. This will often save the great and useless outlay
which has sometimes been incurred in raising calves for dairy purposes,
which a more careful examination would have rejected as unpromising.

The method of judging stock which has been recommended in the previous
pages is of practical utility here, and it is safer to rely upon it to
some extent, particularly when other appearances concur, than to go on
blindly. The milk-mirror on the calf is, indeed, small, but no smaller
in proportion to its size than that of the cow; while its shape and form
can generally be distinctly seen, particularly at the end of ten or
twelve weeks. The development of the udder, and other peculiarities,
will give some indication of the future capacities of the animal, and
these should be carefully studied. If we except the manure of young
stock, the calf is the first product of the cow, and as such demands our
attention, whether it is to be raised or hurried off to the shambles.
The practice adopted in raising calves differs widely in different
sections of the country, being governed very much by local
circumstances, as the vicinity of a milk-market, the value of milk for
the dairy, the object of breeding, whether mainly for beef, for work, or
for the dairy, etc.; but, in general, it may be said, that, within the
range of thirty or forty miles of good veal-markets, which large towns
furnish, comparatively few are raised at all. Most of them are fattened
and sold at ages varying from three to eight or ten weeks; and in
milk-dairies still nearer large towns and cities they are often hurried
off at one or two days, or, at most, a week old. In both of these cases,
as long as the calf is kept it is generally allowed to suck the cow,
and, as the treatment is very simple, there is nothing which
particularly calls for remark, unless it be to condemn the practice
entirely, upon the ground that there is a more profitable way of
fattening calves for the butcher, and to say that allowing the calf to
suck the cow at all is objectionable on the score of economy, except in
cases where it is rendered necessary by the hard and swollen condition
of the udder.

If the calf is so soon to be taken away, it is better that the cow
should not be suffered to become attached to it at all: since she is
inclined to withhold her milk when it is removed, and thus a loss is
sustained. The farmer will be governed by the question of profit,
whatever course it is decided to adopt. In raising blood-stock, however,
or in raising beef cattle, without any regard to economy of milk, the
system of suckling the calves, or letting them run with the cow, may
and will be adopted, since it is usually attended with somewhat less

The other course, which is regarded as the best where the calf is to be
raised for the dairy, is to bring it up by hand. This is almost
universally done in all countries where the raising of dairy cows is
best understood--in Switzerland, Holland, some parts of Germany, and
England. It requires rather more care, on the whole; but it is decidedly
preferable, since the calves cost less, as the food can be easily
modified, and the growth is not checked, as is usually the case when the
calf is taken off from the cow. Allusion is here made, of course, to
sections where the milk of the cow is of some account for the dairy, and
where it is too valuable to be devoted entirely to nourishing the calf.
In this case, as soon as the calf is dropped the cow is allowed to lick
off the slimy moisture till it is dry, which she will generally do from
instinct, or, if not, a slight sprinkling of salt over the body of the
calf will immediately tempt her. The calf is left to suck once or twice,
which it will do as soon as it is able to stand. It should, in all
cases, be permitted to have the first milk which comes from the cow,
which is of a turbid, yellowish color, unfit for any of the purposes of
the dairy, but somewhat purgative and medicinal, and admirably and
wisely designed by Nature to free the bowels and intestines of the
new-born animal from the mucous, excrementitious matter always existing
in it after birth. Too much of this new milk may, however, be hurtful
even to the new-born calf, while it should never be given at all to
older calves. The best course would seem to be--and such is in
accordance with the experience of the most successful stock-raisers--to
milk the cow dry immediately after the calf has sucked once, especially
if the udder is painfully distended, which is often the case, and to
leave the calf with the cow during one day, and after that to feed it by
putting the fingers into its mouth, and gently bringing its muzzle down
to the milk in a pail or trough when it will imbibe in sucking the
fingers. No great difficulty will be experienced in teaching the calf to
drink when taken so young, though some take to it much more readily than
others. What the calf does not need should be given to the cow. Some,
however, prefer to milk immediately after calving; and, if the udder is
overloaded, this may be the best course, though the better practice
appears to be, to leave the cow as quietly to herself as possible for a
few hours. The less she is disturbed, as a general thing, the better.
The after-birth should be taken from her immediately after it is
dropped. It is customary to give the cow, as soon as convenient after
calving, some warm and stimulating drink--a little meal stirred into
warm water, with a part of the first milk which comes from her, seasoned
with a little salt.

In many cases the calf is taken from the cow immediately; and before she
has seen it, to a warm, dry pen out of her sight, and there rubbed till
it is thoroughly dry; and then, when able to stand, fed with the new
milk from the cow, which it should have three or four times a day,
regularly, for the first fortnight, whatever course it is proposed to
adopt afterwards. It is of the greatest importance to give the young
calf a thrifty start. The milk, unless coming directly from the cow,
should be warmed.

Some object to removing the calf from the cow in this way, on the
ground of its apparent cruelty. But the objection to letting the calf
suck the cow for several days, as they do, or indeed of leaving it with
the cow for any length of time, is, that she invariably becomes attached
to it, and frets and withholds her milk when it is at last taken from
her. She probably suffers much more, after this attachment is once
formed, at the removal of the object of it, than she does at its being
taken at first out of her sight. The cow's memory is far more retentive
than many suppose; and the loss and injury sustained by removing the
calf after it has been allowed to suck her for a longer or shorter
period are never known exactly, because it is not usually known how much
milk the calf takes; but it is, without doubt, very considerable. If the
udder is all right, there seems to be no good reason for leaving the
calf with the cow for two or three days, if it is then to be taken away.

The practice in Holland is to remove the calf from its mother even
before it has been licked, and to take it into a corner of the barn, or
into another building, out of the cow's sight and hearing, put it on
soft, dry straw, and rub it dry with some hay or straw, when its tongue
and gums are slightly rubbed with salt, and the mucus and saliva removed
from the nostrils and lips. After this has been done, the calf is made
to drink the milk first taken as it comes from the mother. It is
slightly diluted with water, if taken last from the udder; but, if the
first of the milking, it is given just as it is. The calf is taught to
drink in the same manner as in this country, by putting the fingers in
its mouth, and bringing it down to the milk, and it soon gets so as to
drink unaided. It is fed, at first, from four to six times a day, or
even oftener; but soon only three times, at regular intervals. Its food
for two or three weeks is clear milk, as it comes warm and fresh from
the cow. This is never omitted, as the milk during most of that time
possesses certain qualities which are necessary to the calf, and which
cannot be effectually supplied by any other food. In the third or fourth
week the milk is skimmed, but warmed to the degree of fresh milk;
though, as the calf grows a little older, the milk is given cold, while
less care is taken to give it the milk of its own mother, that of other
cows now answering equally well. In some places, calves are fed on
buttermilk at the age of two weeks and after; but the change from new
milk, fresh from the cow, is made gradually, some sweet skimmed milk and
warm water being first added to it.

At three weeks old, or thereabouts, the calf will begin to eat a little
sweet, fine hay, and potatoes cut fine, and it very soon becomes
accustomed to this food. Many now begin to give linseed-meal mixed into
hot water, to which is added some skim-milk or buttermilk; and others
use a little bran cooked in hay-tea, made by chopping the hay fine and
pouring on boiling-hot water, which is allowed to stand awhile on it. An
egg is frequently broken into such a mixture. Others still take pains at
this age to have fresh linseed-cake, broken into pieces of the size of a
pigeon's egg; putting one of these into the mouth after the meal of milk
has been finished, and when it is eager to suck at any thing in its way.
It will very soon learn to eat linseed-meal. A little sweet clover is
put in its way at the age of about three weeks, and it will soon begin
to eat that also.

In this manner the feeding is continued from the fourth to the seventh
week, the quantity of solid food being gradually increased. In the sixth
or seventh week the milk is by degrees withheld, and water or buttermilk
used instead; and soon after this, green food may be safely given,
increasing it gradually with the hay to the age of ten or twelve weeks,
when it will do to put them upon grass alone, if the season is
favorable. A lot as near the house as possible, where they can be easily
looked after and frequently visited, is the best. Calves should be
gradually accustomed to all changes; and even after having been turned
out to pasture, they ought to be put under shelter if the weather is not
dry and warm. The want of care and attention relative to these little
details will be apparent sooner or later; while, if the farmer gives his
personal attention to these matters, he will be fully paid in the rapid
growth of his calves. It is especially necessary to see that the troughs
from which they are fed, if troughs are used, are kept clean and sweet.

But there are some--even among intelligent farmers--who make a practice
of turning their calves out to pasture at the tender age of two or three
weeks--and that, too, when they have sucked the cow up to that time--and
allow them nothing in the shape of milk and tender care. This,
certainly, is the poorest possible economy, to say nothing of the
manifest cruelty of such treatment. The growth of the calf is checked,
and the system receives a shock from so sudden a change, from which it
cannot soon recover. The careful Dutch breeders bring the calves either
skimmed milk or buttermilk to drink several times a day after they are
turned to grass, which is not till the age of ten or twelve weeks; and,
if the weather is chilly, the milk is warmed for them. They put a
trough generally under a covering, to which the calves may come and
drink at regular times. Thus, they are kept tame and docile.

In the raising of calves, through all stages of their growth, great care
should be taken neither to starve nor to over-feed. A calf should never
be surfeited, and never be fed so highly that it cannot be fed more
highly as it advances. The most important part is to keep it growing
thriftily without getting too fat, if it is to be raised for the dairy.

The calves in the dairy districts of Scotland are fed on the milk, with
seldom any admixture; and they are not permitted to suck their dams, but
are taught to drink milk by the hand from a dish. They are generally fed
on milk only for the first four, five, or six weeks, and are then
allowed from two to two and a half quarts of new milk each meal, twice
in the twenty-four hours. Some never give them any other food when young
except milk, lessening the quantity when the calf begins to eat grass or
other food, which it generally does when about five weeks old, if grass
can be had; and withdrawing it entirely about the seventh or eighth week
of the calf's age. But, if the calf is reared in winter, or early in
spring, before the grass rises, it must be supplied with at least some
milk until it is eight or nine weeks old, as a calf will not so soon
learn to eat hay or straw, nor fare so well on them alone as it will on
pasture. Some feed their calves reared for stock partly with meal mixed
in the milk after the third or fourth week. Others introduce gradually
some new whey into the milk, first mixed with meal; and, when the calf
gets older, they withdraw the milk, and feed it on whey and porridge.
Hay-tea, juices of peas and beans, or pea or bean-straw, linseed beaten
into powder, treacle, etc., have all been sometimes used to advantage in
feeding calves; but milk, when it can be spared, is, in the judgment of
the Scotch breeders, by far their most natural food.

In Galloway, and other pastoral districts, where the calves are allowed
to suck, the people are so much wedded to their own customs as to argue
that suckling is much more nutritious to the calves than any other mode
of feeding. That it induces a greater secretion of saliva, which, by
promoting digestion, accelerates the growth and fattening of the young
animal, cannot be doubted; but the secretion of that fluid may likewise
be promoted by placing an artificial teat in the mouth of the calf, and
giving it the milk slowly, and at the natural temperature. In the dairy
districts of Scotland, the dairymaid puts one of her fingers into the
mouth of the calf when it is fed, which serves the purpose of a teat,
and will have nearly the same effect as the natural teat in inducing the
secretion of saliva. If that, or an artificial teat of leather, be used,
and the milk be given slowly before it is cold, the secretion of saliva
may be promoted to all the extent that can be necessary; besides,
secretion is not confined to the mere period of eating, but, as in the
human body, the saliva is formed and part of it swallowed at all times.
As part of the saliva is sometimes seen dropping from the mouths of the
calves, it might be advisable not only to give them an artificial teat
when fed, but to place, as is frequently done, a lump of chalk before
them to lick, thus leading them to swallow the saliva. The chalk would
so far supply the want of salt, of which cattle are often so improperly
deprived, and it would also promote the formation of saliva. Indeed,
calves are very much disposed to lick and suck every thing which comes
within their reach, which seems to be the way in which Nature teaches
them to supply their stomachs with saliva.

But though sucking their dams may be most advantageous in that respect,
yet it has also some disadvantages. The cow is always more injured than
the calf is benefited by that mode of feeding. She becomes so fond of
the calf that she does not, for a long time after, yield her milk freely
to the dairyman. The calf does not when young draw off the milk
completely, and when it is taken off by the hand, the cow withholds a
part of her milk, and, whenever a cow's udder is not completely emptied
every time she is milked, the lactic secretion--as before stated--is
thereby diminished.

Feeding of calves by hand is also, in various respects, advantageous.
Instead of depending on the uncertain, or perhaps precarious supply of
the dam, which may be more at first than the young animal can consume or
digest, and at other times too little for its supply, its food can, by
hand-feeding, be regulated to suit the age, appetite, and the purposes
for which the calf is intended; other admixtures or substitutes can be
introduced into the milk, and the quantity gradually increased or
withdrawn at pleasure. This is highly necessary when the calves are
reared for stock. The milk is in that case diminished, and other food
introduced so gradually that the stomach of the young animal is not
injured as it is when the food is too suddenly changed. And, in the case
of feeding calves for the butcher, the quantity of milk is not limited
to that of the dam--for no cow will allow a stranger-calf to suck
her--but it can be increased, or the richest or poorest parts of the
milk given at pleasure.

Such are, substantially, the views upon this subject which are
entertained by the most judicious farmers in the first dairy districts
of Scotland.

In those districts--where, probably, the feeding and management of
calves are as well and as judiciously conducted as in any other part of
Great Britain--the farmers' wives and daughters, or the female
domestics, have the principal charge of young calves; and they are,
doubtless, much better calculated for this duty than men, since they are
more inclined to be gentle and patient. The utmost gentleness--as has
been already remarked, in another connection--should always be observed
in the treatment of all stock; but especially of milch cows, and calves
designed for the dairy. Persevering kindness and patience, will, almost
invariably, overcome the most obstinate natures; while rough and
ungentle handling will be repaid in a quiet kind of way, perhaps, by
withholding the milk, which will always have a tendency to dry up the
cow; or, what is nearly as bad, by kicking and other modes of revenge,
which often contribute to the personal discomfort of the milker. The
disposition of the cow is greatly modified, if not, indeed, wholly
formed, by her treatment while young; and therefore it is best to handle
calves as much as possible, and make pets of them, lead them with a
halter, and caress them in various ways. Calves managed in this way will
always be docile, and suffer themselves to be approached and handled,
both in the pasture and in the barn.

With respect to the use of hay-tea--often used in this country, but more
common abroad, where greater care and attention are usually bestowed
upon the details of breeding--Youatt says: "At the end of three or four
days, or perhaps a week, or near a fortnight, after a calf has been
dropped, and the first passages have been cleansed by allowing it to
drink as much of the cow's milk as it feels inclined for, let the
quantity usually allotted for a meal be mixed, consisting, for the first
week, of three parts of milk and one part of hay-tea. The only
nourishing infusion of hay is that which is made from the best and
sweetest hay, cut by a chaff-cutter into pieces about two inches long,
and put into an earthen vessel; over this, boiling water should be
poured, and the whole allowed to stand for two hours, during which time
it ought to be kept carefully closed. After the first week, the
proportions of milk and hay-tea may be equal; then composed of
two-thirds of hay-tea and one of milk; and at length, one-fourth part of
milk will be sufficient. This food should be given to the calf in a
lukewarm state at least three, if not four times a day, in quantities
averaging three quarts at a meal, but gradually increasing to four
quarts as the calf grows older. Toward the end of the second month,
beside the usual quantity given at each meal--composed of three parts of
the infusion and one of milk--a small wisp or bundle of hay is to be
laid before the calf, which will gradually come to eat it; but, if the
weather is favorable, as in the month of May, the beast may be turned
out to graze in a fine, sweet pasture, well sheltered from the wind and
sun. This diet may be continued until toward the latter end of the third
month, when, if the calf grazes heartily, each meal may be reduced to
less than a quart of milk, with hay-water; or skimmed milk, or fresh
buttermilk, may be substituted for new milk. At the expiration of the
third month, the animal will hardly require to be fed by hand; though,
if this should still be necessary, one quart of the infusion given
daily--which, during the summer, need not be warmed--will suffice." The
hay-tea should be made fresh every two days, as it soon loses its
nutritious quality.

This and other preparations are given, not because they are better than
milk,--than which nothing is better adapted to fatten a calf, or promote
its growth,--but simply to economize by providing the simplest and
cheapest substitutes. Experience shows that the first two or three
calves are smaller than those which follow; and hence, unless they are
pure-bred, and to be kept for the blood, they are not generally thought
to be so desirable to raise for the dairy as the third or fourth, and
those that come after, up to the age of nine or ten years. Opinions upon
this point, however, differ.

According to the comparative experiments of a German agriculturist, cows
which as calves had been allowed to suck their dams from two to four
weeks, brought calves which weighed only from thirty-five to forty-eight
pounds; while others, which as calves had been allowed to suck from five
to eight weeks, brought calves which weighed from sixty to eighty
pounds. It is difficult to see how there can be so great a difference,
if, indeed, there be any; but it may be worthy of careful observation
and experiment, and as such it is stated here. The increased size of the
calf would be due to the increased size to which the cow would attain;
and if as a calf she were allowed to run in the pasture with her dam for
four or five months, taking all the milk she wanted, she would doubtless
be kept growing on in a thriving condition. But taking a calf from the
cow at four or even eight weeks must check its growth to some extent;
and this may be avoided by feeding liberally, and bringing up by hand.

After the calf is fully weaned, there is nothing very peculiar in the
general management. A young animal will require for the first few
months--say up to the age of six months--an average of five or six
pounds daily of good hay, or its equivalent. At the age of six months,
it will require from four and a half to five pounds; and at the end of
the year, from three and a half or four pounds of good hay, or its
equivalent, for every one hundred pounds of its live weight; or, in
other words, about three and a half or four per cent. of its live
weight. At two years old, it will require three and a half, and some
months later, three per cent. of its live weight daily in good hay, or
its equivalent. Indian-corn fodder, either green or cured, forms an
excellent and wholesome food at this age.

The heifer should not be pampered, nor yet poorly fed or half starved,
so as to receive a check in her growth. An abundant supply of good
healthy dairy food and milk will do all that is necessary up to the time
of her having her first calf--which should not ordinarily be till the
age of three years, though some choose to allow them to come in at two,
or a little over, on the ground that it early stimulates the secretion
of milk, and that this will increase the milking propensity through
life. This is undoubtedly the case, as a general rule; but greater
injury is at the same time done by checking the growth, unless the
heifer has been fed up to large size and full development from the
start--in which case she may perhaps take the bull at fifteen or
eighteen months without injury. Even if a heifer comes in at two years,
it is generally deemed desirable to let her run barren for the following
year, which will promote her growth and more perfect development.

The feeding which young stock often get is not such as is calculated to
make good-sized or valuable cattle of them. They are often fed on the
poorest of hay or straw through the winter, not infrequently left
exposed to cold, unprotected and unhoused, and thus stinted in their
growth. This is, surely, the very worst economy, or rather it is no
economy at all. Properly viewed, it is an extravagant wastefulness which
no farmer can afford. No animal develops its good points under such
treatment; and if the starving system is to be followed at all, it had
better be after the age of two or three years, when the animal's
constitution has attained the strength and vigor which may, possibly,
enable it to resist ill treatment.

To raise up first-rate milkers, it is absolutely necessary to feed on
dairy food even when they are young. No matter how fine the breed is, if
the calf is raised on poor, short feed, it will never be so good a
milker as if raised on better keeping; and hence, in dairy districts,
where calves are raised at all, they ought to be allowed the best
pasture during the summer, and good, sweet and wholesome food during
the winter.

Next: Points Of Fat Cattle

Previous: Milking

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