How to Use Jersey Cows for Nurse Cows

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A Jersey is a good nurse cow for raising orphaned calves.
A Jersey is a good nurse cow for raising orphaned calves. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Using a Jersey for a nurse cow is a smart choice because the breed produces milk for multiple calves with a high butter-fat content. The butter-fat enriched milk provides good calf nutrition and promotes calf growth and development. For these reasons, it is wise to have one or more Jerseys in the herd, depending upon the usual number of orphaned calves. A Jersey normally produces enough milk for her calf and one or two others.

Things You'll Need

  • Milk pail
  • 1-quart freezer bags
  • Freezer
  • Disinfectant
  • Microwave oven
  • Stomach tube kit
  • Roofed pens
  • Squeeze chute

Prepare the Calf for Nursing

Breed nurse cows about two weeks before the rest of the herd. This ensures that the nurse cows calve and are producing milk by the time calves are orphaned.

Ensure the nurse cow's calf nurses within 2 to 4 hours after birth. Allow the calf to nurse until it is full. A cow's milk contains colostrum for three or four days after delivering a calf. Colostrum contains antibodies that gives the calf a healthy start and helps its digestive system begin functioning. If calf does not receive colostrum within two to four hours following birth, it will likely die.

Clean and disinfect the nurse cow's udder as well as your hands. Use a clean, disinfected pail and milk the remaining quantity from the cow's udder after her calf is through nursing. Pour this milk into 1-quart plastic storage bags and immediately store it in a freezer. Repeat this procedure for two days. Frozen colostrum will last for a year.

Give an orphaned calf colostrum within two to four hours after birth. Thaw a quart of colostrum in a microwave oven set at no more than 60-percent power. Agitate or stir the colostrum frequently to ensure even thawing and warming.

Restrain the orphaned calf in a standing or sitting position. Measure a stomach tube against the calf to determine the needed length to reach the stomach. Mark the tube and insert the nozzle into the calf's mouth. Gently push the tube down the esophagus until the mark on the tube is at the calf's mouth. As you insert the tube, make sure you feel the tube pass down the neck. If you can feel the tube, it is not in the windpipe.

Gently pour a quart of colostrum down the tube. After the container is empty, clamp off the tube and remove it. If the calf still shows signs of hunger, prepare another quart of colostrum and repeat the feeding process. Feed colostrum twice a day for the first four days after birth. If scours develops, reduce or eliminate the colostrum and allow the calf to start nursing from a nurse cow.

Start the Calf Nursing

Pen a nurse cow and her natural and adopted calves in a roofed enclosure separate from other animals. The enclosure should be large enough to allow interaction between the cow and calves.

Watch the nurse cow after introduction of an orphan to see if she allows the new calf to nurse. If the cow repeatedly kicks or butts the calf and does not let it nurse, she will need to be restrained.

Place the nurse cow in a squeeze chute and secure the cow's head. Open the side panels to gain access to the cow's udder and position the calf at the chute where it can nurse. Repeat this procedure twice daily until the cow lets the calf nurse naturally.

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