How to Care for a Calf

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It’s always preferable that a calf is raised by its mother. Sometimes calves may be lost and separated from their moms. Other times the calf’s mother may have died in childbirth or have another illness that prevents her from caring for her calf. Once you’ve first ascertained that you can’t reunite the calf with its mother, you should provide the calf with adequate care. Just like babies, calves can’t take care of themselves. If they don’t have proper care, they may die on their own.

Things You'll Need

  • Pen
  • Bottle
  • Colostrum
  • Milk
  • Water
  • Veterinarian

Caring for a Calf

  • Move the calf to a pen or similarly enclosed area. Initially eep the calf away from other animals. It'll need to feel safe and protected.

  • Get the necessary feeding supplies from a pet or farm store. You'll need nursing bottles with appropriate nipples, milk and colostrum.

  • Give the calf colostrum for the first couple days. It contains essential nutrients and antibodies that the calf would normally be getting from its mother. The calf must consume at least two quarts of colostrum in order to outfit its immune system.

  • Feed the calf every two to four hours. Just like human babies need to eat often, calves must eat several times a day. The calf may resist the bottle initially but it'll nurse from it shortly.

  • Keep a container of water available for the calf at all times. It'll learn to drink water within a few days of birth.

  • Place fresh, nutritious hay in the calf's pen. Appropriate hay also will contain legumes and grass for added nutrition.

  • Take the calf to see a veterinarian. You can also schedule for a large animals vet to come visit the calf at your place. The calf will need a variety of injections and immunizations. The vet also will perform a general health checkup on the calf.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you can't provide long-term care for the calf, contact your local humane society or 4-H group.
  • If the calf seems ill, take him to a veterinarian immediately.
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