Spring is coming: the snow is melting, the birds are singing, and the cows are calving on our farm. On our farm, we plan to have all of our cows give birth in the springtime. Farms that have all their calves in one season are known as seasonal farms. We will have over 70 calves by the end of April. We have already had six calves since the first of March. Once it is warm (and our pastures are dry) our cows will have their calves out on the soft pasture. Until then, we let them calve inside our calving shed, to keep the calves from getting too cold.
As soon as a calf is born, we let the mother lick it for a while. The mother helps the calf to start breathing properly and dries its hair. The first milk from a cow after she calved is called colostrum, this milk has special antibodies in it that helps to build up a calf immune system. We warm a bottle of this milk and feed it to the new calf. For the first few feedings, we usually feed the calf with a bottle, but once the calf is drinking well, we put the calf in a pen with several other calves its age. We feed these calves out of blue mob feeders. We simply pour milk in them and the calves drink out of the openings in the bottom. We feed the calves twice a day, once after the morning milking and once before the evening milking. Once the calves are old enough, we put a grain trough in their pen. Soon we will start slowly weaning them off milk. If it is warm enough at night, we may put them in a special pen out in our yard. The calves learn to eat pasture and soon we can put them out in their own special paddock, just for our calves.
The four pictures on this page show some of the different calves that were born since the beginning of March. At the top is Halt, a Jersey calf. Jerseys are brown and usually smaller than the other breeds. The next calf from the top is Janel; she is a Norwegian Red-Milking Shorthorn cross. Norwegian Reds and Milking Shorthorns are usually red, but most of ours are still crosses and their coloring is either blue roan or black. Loral is third; she is a Milking Shorthorn-Jersey cross. Unlike the Norwegian Red crosses, she has the red roan coloring from the Shorthorns. Finally, at the bottom of the post, we have Mandy. She is almost entirely Milking Shorthorn. She is a solid red with a few white stripes and spots.