How to Bottle Feed a Baby Calf

Infections and overfeeding a calf may result in scours, or diarrhea.
Infections and overfeeding a calf may result in scours, or diarrhea. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Orphaned calves aren't the only ones that get fed by hand. On dairy farms, calves often are bottle because their mothers are milked by machine. While calves usually nurse their mothers on beef farms, a calf who isn't getting enough mother's milk may need to feed from a bottle. Ensure the calf gets his first milk from his mother within an hour after birth, if possible. This milk, or colostrum, contains antibodies that support a strong immune system. Stay calm when bottle feeding a baby calf -- stress can hinder a calf's development.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand sanitizer or soap
  • Hot water
  • 1 tbsp. household bleach
  • Bottle
  • Nipple
  • Milk

Wash your hands. Fill the calf's bottle with hot water. Add 1 tbsp. household bleach. Let it sit for a few minutes. Pour the bleach mixture over the nipple when you empty the bottle.

Follow the product directions for preparing the calf's milk. Add it to the bottle and secure the nipple. Feed it to your baby calf; she'll catch on quickly. Check the milk flow from the nipple if the calf starts butting against the bottle.

Bottle feed the baby calf twice a day. Use scalding hot water to clean the bottle and nipple after each feeding.

Tips & Warnings

  • Talk with your veterinarian about the best diet for your calf. Feeding options include whole milk, waste milk, reconstituted milk replacer, and fresh or fermented colostrum. She also can help you decide when to start feeding calf starter, which contains nutrient-rich grains.

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