Bottle Babies: Making a Bottle

Our cattle start calving (or giving birth) in June. This is usually a very busy time on the Ranch, in addition to the babies being born, we are also making hay, selling and shipping our commercial cattle and taking care of the day-to-day ranch chores. It is anything but “the simple life”.

Inevitably we always end up with a bottle calf or two. This happens for a couple reasons. The first being sometimes you have twins! Our beef cows generally are not equipped to raise two calves, so one twin becomes a bottle baby. The second reason is sometimes you lose a cow in birth, but you can save the calf. And finally the third reason is sometimes your neighbors will have extra calves but no extra time, so they will sell you their bottle babies.

We like to have an extra bottle calf on the ranch. Why you ask? Well, it takes around 6 years for a beef cow to be profitable on a ranch. That means you have to keep that cow healthy, happy and producing a calf, ever year, so you can continue to ranch. If you aren’t able to keep your cattle happy and healthy – they will not breed back and you will not have a product (calves) to sell. If you don’t have a product to sell, you won’t make money. If you do not make money, you will go out of business. This is a fact I think we can all agree on.

Say you have a nice young cow that for some reason or another (maybe she ate a poisonous plant), lost her calf. Instead of culling (or selling) that cow because she isn’t producing, you “graft” a bottle calf onto that cow. That calf gets a new Mom that loves it, and the cow gets a baby to love and raise and the cattleperson gets to keep a nice, young, healthy cow and a calf to sell next year! Everyone wins!

So far this summer, we’ve had 3 bottle babies. It’s been the summer of twins! We’ve already grafted one calf on to a cow, but we still have two bottle babies on the Home Ranch that my Mom and I (mainly my Mom), are taking care of right now. I thought it would be a fun little blog post to show my readers how we bottle feed our babies! Enjoy!

This is the calf formula we use. The calves are given colostrum from a local dairy for the first 24 hours of their life (healthy babies are VERY important).

It looks a lot like other types of instant milk….

This is what a calf bottle looks like. You fill it halfway with warm water and then….

You add the milk replacer…..

Just like this… add more warm water and shake!

Then you put the nipple on – this was so hard for me as a little kid! I hated it.

A made bottle. Each calf gets 3 of these a day.

Mick says “oh this is so so so good!”

Enjoying a drink of water after dinner.

Hoot is keeping Jagger clean. Hoot loves her babies!

Having a little play time after dinner.


Filed under Ag, Beef, food, photos, Ranch life, Uncategorized

3 Responses to Bottle Babies: Making a Bottle

  1. Aw they are so freaking cute!!

  2. I had to giggle after reading’ this one, as we just got done trying to get a premie to nurse from mom. The dogs with the calves are hilarious! Ain’t it funny how “cow dogs” adopt calves and they become theirs! We had one sleep inside our Aussie’s dog house for months, and Du wouldn’t let that calf leave her side! Again great post!

  3. Pingback: The Art and Science of Calf Grafting | The Beef Jar

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