Foster baby calves with care
Calving difficulties and baby calf mortality can often lead stockmen to graft calves onto new mothers.
Fostering baby calves within a single herd is the best option because bringing new calves in from an outside herd carries the risk of introducing disease, said South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension Veterinarian Russ Daly during a recent iGrow Radio Network interview.
“A lot of times we have more chance of that calf shedding scours, bacteria and viruses, all the kinds of things that can infect baby calves and cause more illness. Those calves are more likely, as a result of their history, to bring disease into the herd—if it happens to be an organism our herd doesn’t have any immunity to, we can really have some bad results go through not just that calf, but the rest of the healthy calves as well,” Daly said.
He explains that many times when producers go outside the herd to get a baby calf to put on a lactating cow that for one reason or another has lost her own calf, they are normally dealing with very young calves that have undergone a lot of stress.
“Many times the reason those calves are for sale is they had problems, their mother has been lost or had some illness and sometimes those calves have not gotten the colostrum they needed,” he said.
If a cattle producer needs to foster an outside calf, Daly says it can be done if the calf and its new mother are isolated for at least four weeks.
“Now by isolation I mean by themselves; we’re not mixing the cow and we’re not mixing that calf into any situation where it can contact our animals in our existing herd,” he said. “Don’t be tempted to put them in a corner of the calving barn where they will have a lot of contact with other animals.”
Grafting techniques vary widely, from tying on a calf hide to pouring pop on the new calf; when it comes to grafting, Daly says there is no silver bullet.
“The reason there are so many techniques out there is there isn’t one that works really well. You have to try lots of different things,” he said.
For more information on this topic, visit iGrow.org. The iGrow Radio Network and SDSU Extension bring listeners an informative show each day. For more information on the iGrow Radio Network, or to listen to archived shows, visit iGrow.org. — WLJ