Have you ever had a cow, or first calf heifer steal some other cow calf and abandon their own?
I have had this situation every year before I learned a better way, it is a lot of hassle and stress to try to have the dam take its own calf back once it rejects it due to confusion after a long day’s work on calving season. Just recently one of my students had this happen with a first calf heifer and believe me, it is not enjoyable to graft the calf back to its own dam. This happens not because the animal is a bad mother but due to its own instinct and we need to learn why this happens to prevent it.
When we have concentrated calving occur in a short period as in an optimal calving season, we end up having multiple births per day, all those hormones and smells can confuse first calf heifers, first calf heifers having no previous calving experience are notorious to confuse their newborn calves and steal the calf of another cow, even experienced cows can be confused when they do not identify and bond with their newborn calf from lack of enough space or from being moved immediately after calving. This can also happen when feeding supplement or hay daily to your calving cows’ group or groups.
The reason that this happens is the instinct of cattle where the cow looks for a secluded space or area where she decides to give birth, then she hides her calf after giving it colostrum for up to 24 or more hours, time in which the calf knows it must stay put waiting for his/her dam to return. Cattle are not plains animals where they give birth on the move or when migrating but were originally in small family groups which lived in forests on the edge of the grassland where they went to graze and quickly returned to the forest for safety or fear of predators, they had to develop this instinct for survival.
A freshly calved cow instinct is to consume its calf placenta and it is how she recognizes her calf smell, then she needs time with her calf to give it colostrum which further creates this very important bonding where her calf also recognizes its dam smell and voice. All of this is difficult to achieve when moving your calving cows daily and it is best to plan how you will manage your calving.
Now that we want our cattle to serve as a proxy to a myriad of herbivore species under the predator effect where they achieved total grazing which is essential for the grass wellbeing we need to accommodate to our cattle’s needs.
Rotating your calving cows daily is detrimental, as newborn calves can be left behind and suffer from predation or starvation. This is detailed in my optimal calving season 3rd Pillar.
Today I am going to tell you how to avoid these problems with management and planning. This you can implement right away and stop these problems immediately.
You need to separate the pregnant cows from the rest of the cattle and put them in smaller groups where they are going to calve unmolested and moved infrequently to the adjacent paddock, we need to plan so that they do not run out of forage in their designated area before the calving season ends.
This is another reason to have the optimal calving season when forage is naturally in excess and is explained in depth in my Optimal calving season 3rd Pillar.