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Dec 23, 2021 10:43:31 AM / Brooke Loeffler / How to bottle feed a new calf

How to Bottle Feed a New Calf

Not all calves are able to nurse directly from their dams. As a result, most cattle operations (dairy, beef, large, or small) should be prepared for the possibility of bottle feeding. Being ready to nurture calves properly, and right from the get go, will help them grow into healthy and productive members of your herd.

1. Colostrum Immediately

The first critical step is to ensure your calves get colostrum within an hour after being born. Colostrum is sometimes referred to as “liquid gold” due to its saturated levels of:

  • Immunoglobins (natural and vaccinated immunity passed on from their dam)
  • Fats
  • Proteins
  • Macro and micronutrients
  • Other growth factors needed to stimulate development
Benefits of giving calves colostrum in the first hour of life

Newborn calves have a very permeable digestive system that allows immunoglobulins and other colostrum components to be passed directly into their bloodstream. This permeability steadily decreases in their first 24 hours of life, so getting colostrum into their system immediately is extremely important. Calves should receive 3-4 quarts (depending on breed size) of colostrum in the first hour, and 2 quarts again around 6-8 hours (according to Penn State Extension).

If calves are separated from their dams for any reason, dams should be milked for colostrum immediately. For orphaned calves, the next best option would be thawed colostrum from frozen storage, followed by a colostrum supplement if no natural colostrum is available.

  • Click here to learn more about colostrum and how to prepare and store for this critical first hour.

2. Continue bottle feeding 2-3 times a day

After day 1, colostrum begins to transition into mature milk. From day 2 to until weaning, calves should bottle feed 2-3 times a day. If natural milk is not available, make sure you use a calf starter or milk replacer with around 21% crude protein to maintain healthy growth rates (according to Penn State Ag Extension). Consult your vet on a proper weaning schedule for your operation, so your calves' rumen develop properly.

  • Click here to learn more from Penn State on how to transition calves from liquids to solid feed and forage.

3. Watch for Scours

A whole range of viruses, bacteria, and protozoa can cause scours (diarrhea) in your calves. According to UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the most common strains include E. coli, Rota virus, Corona virus, and Cryptosporidium. These infectious microbes can cause severe dehydration and even death in some cases. Scours can also occur due to poor nutrition, inconsistent feeding, and incorrectly mixing and warming bottled feeds.

Preventing and helping calves with scours

The best way to prevent and help your calves with scours is to:

  • Make sure breeding dams are up to date on all their vaccinations (that immunity will be passed on through the milk and colostrum but not through the placenta)
  • Follow the recommended colostrum and bottle feeding schedule
  • Offer electrolytes (see minerals below)
  • Keep their environment clean (see below)
  • Closely follow manufacturer's instructions for any milk replacement mixes.

4. Keep Environment Clean

Maintaining a clean calving environment will greatly reduce the chance for pathogens to grow and spread.

  • Provide birthing dams clean pastures, barns, or pens with fresh and dry bedding material
  • Consistently remove manure and waste and store far away from calving areas
  • Disinfect calving pens or stalls in between calving groups (if a calf can reach it with their mouth, it needs to be cleaned)
  • Sanitize milking, feeding, and bottle equipment before and after use

Newborn calf in a stall with bedding

Tip: Try Redmond Udder Mud to naturally inhibit infection (like mastitis), reduce swelling, and relieve pain for your lactating animals 

5. Offer an Expansive Mineral Profile

Offering calves electrolytes and trace minerals can reduce dehydration and support your calves immune system. Electrolytes are substances that provide the electrical impulses needed for healthy heart, brain, nerve, and muscle function. The 4 chloride salts (magnesium chloride, sodium chloride, calcium chloride, and potassium chloride) are important electrolytes that can help deter dehydration. Not only are these salts great for reducing dehydration, they also are delicious and highly craved by your animals. Mineral mixes with a higher salt to trace mineral ratio are much more palatable to your animals and their natural salt cravings encourage healthy intake. UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine recommends mineral mixes with selenium and copper for cattle to reduce the occurrence of scours.

"Copper and selenium are both important for the proper functioning of the immune system. Deficiencies in either one of these trace minerals will result in an increase in sick and/or dead calves."

  • Click here to learn how selenium boosts immune health

Supporting Calf Health with Redmond Minerals 

For over 50 years, Redmond Minerals has supported healthy farming operations with our delicious mineral mixes. Our delicious blend of 4 electrolyte salts is the perfect carrier for our expansive profile of over 60 trace minerals, including selenium and copper. For calf health, we recommend Selenium 90; fortified with extra selenium (90ppm), copper, manganese, cobalt, iodine and zinc. When given a choice between Redmond and other mineral mixes animals choose ours every time. Our products are a great way to encourage young calves to have a healthy relationship with their minerals right from the beginning. 

  • Click here to learn more about essential minerals for calves

Redmond is always looking for new ways to support our hardworking farmers. We are getting ready to release a wonderful new product, Redmond First Month Calf DFM (Direct Fed Microbials)...coming early 2022! DFM is a nourishing blend of our mineral conditioner, probiotics, and MOS (mannan-oligosaccharides) perfect for the first month of life for your calves. DFM increases mineral and immunoglobin levels in the blood and reduces calf mortality rates. Customers already love the results they are seeing:

"I had been losing almost every calf within 3 days of life.  My Redmond rep got me a small pouch of Redmond Calf DFM. I started feeding it in the colostrum. My next 2 heifer calves are doing great. I will not raise calves without this product.” -Paul H. Pennsylvania

Give us a call today at 866-709-3192 to see how we can help you get back to what you love about raising animals!

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