How to tell when it “time” to calve…

Yesterday I was saying that Chocolate is close to dropping her calf (i.e. birthing)… so a few other hints that it is getting close.  Her udder (bag) has filled out! She doesn’t have the huge bag of a standard Jersey, or the ground dragging bags of Holsteins. So when you notice her udder… it means something is going on, as well as when the teats lengthen and start to look full.

The temps dropped to the high 20’s last night… so glad our cows tend to deliver in the daytime when the temps have warmed up.  Chocolate’s udder looks fuller today, and the teats are beginning to angle OUT (the better for a newborn calf to find). And even better some of the teats are beginning to show drops of milk… dripping out.

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When the calf is born, and starts looking for a teat, it is so funny to see.  The teats will just be streaming milk.

I’m sure the calf can smell the sweet milk (uh, colostrum).  The colostrum is the first milk that comes.  It is full of stuff that will colonize the calf’s gut, give it immunities, and helps clear the system of gunk.  The calf needs to nurse well within the first 6 hours, as the window begins to close on good absorption of the goodies in the milk.  In the first 24 hours, the sooner, and more often the calf nurses, the healthier they tend to be. Calves who do NOT get that first milk end up being sickly.

We will watch to make sure the new calf nurses well, pees, & poops… all system go!

Industrial dairy cows may never have their calves nurse from them.  But the dairy does collect the colostrum and bottle feed it to the newborns.  We will save some of Chocolate’s colostrum and freeze it.  We save it for any livestock that has problem getting their mother’s colostrum.

We will let Chocolate’s calf stay with her & nurse for the first month.  After the first month we will share milk.  The gut of the calf has to develop the bacteria culture that it needs to break down cellulose… the fibrous stuff in forage, and it gets that naturally from the mom.  They will practice eating hay/grass/forage but will NOT really get any nutrition from it until they are a month old.

We are looking for long-term health so don’t want to interfere with that early nursing.  Just believe that a good start will decrease any future health problems.

Has that been “proven”; don’t know but it sure makes sense to me.

From Wikipedia:

Colostrum

Colostrum is very rich in proteins, vitamin A, and sodium chloride, but contains lower amounts of carbohydrates, lipids, and potassium than normal milk. The most pertinent bioactive components in colostrum are growth factors and antimicrobial factors. The antibodies in colostrum provide passive immunity, while growth factors stimulate the development of the gut. They are passed to the neonate and provide the first protection against pathogens.

 In animal husbandry

Colostrum is crucial for newborn farm animals. They receive no passive transfer of immunity via the placenta before birth, so any antibodies that they need have to be ingested. This oral transfer of immunity can occur because the newborn’s stomach is porous. This means that large proteins (such as antibodies) can pass through the stomach wall. The newborn animal must receive colostrum within 6 hours of being born for maximal transfer of antibodies to occur. The stomach wall remains somewhat open up to 24 hours of age, but transfer is more limited.[22]

Livestock breeders commonly bank colostrum from their animals. Colostrum can be stored frozen but it does lose some of its inherent quality. Colostrum produced on a breeder’s own premises is considered to be superior to colostrum from other sources, because it is produced by animals already exposed to (and, thus, making antibodies to) pathogens occurring on the premises. Bovine colostrum is produced by cows for their newborn calves. In many dairy cow herds the calves are not permitted to nurse; rather, they are fed colostrum from a bottle or by stomach tube and later milk from a bottle then a bucket.

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