Grafting a calf onto another cow is sometimes necessary. Losing a calf is disappointing at the least. Not only because it is your lively hood but because you hate to lose those baby calves. But sometimes no matter how hard you try it just happens.
Tips to graft a calf onto a calf
We keep a close eye on our cows when they are calving, but some of those cows just don’t want an audience and they definitely don’t want your help. Recently we had a cow that had just that opinion. She is a really good cow and a great mom but she didn’t want us hanging around to watch her calve.
She was not progressing very quickly so we left her alone for 20 minutes. Within 10 minutes she had the baby. Regardless of how hard she was licking and cleaning off her newborn calf, she missed the sack over the nose. Withoutcleaning off the nose first the calf will never take a breath. I really feel bad for them when this happens.
The next morning we removed the dead calf from the calving area and turned her out with the herd. She stayed close to the calving area, I guess hoping her calf would come. The next night we had a tender mercy and a cow had a set of twins.
Grafting a twin calf onto the cow
Now this cow was not real thrilled to have two new babies. It was a really cold night so the calves stayed snuggled in the calf warmer after eating colostrum. One drank from the mom and the other one was fed a bottle of colostrum. The next morning the new mom was happy to get her new calf back. The sweet thing is there was the mom that had lost her calf standing at the gate waiting to be let in.
My husband skinned the dead calf and crafted a nice coat tied with twine over the second twin. He opened the gate to the calving area and the cow walked right in. He put the new baby with the hide stretched and tied over it in with the cow.
The mama cow sniffed the calf and started licking it. She was thrilled with her new baby and gave it constant care. By putting the hide on the calf she thought it was her original baby. She didn’t know this was another cows calf. A few days later the pair was turned back out with the herd. The hide was left on the calf for 8 days. The calf drank the milk from the cow and as soon as it started to pass through the calf it began to smell even more like her own calf.
When we cut the strings and took the hide off of the calf he was doing great. Mom continued to take the calf and care for it. She didn’t know there was a difference.
Other tips you can try
Grafting calves can at times be a little more difficult than this and may need to be worked at a little more. There is other ways to graft calves if you can’t skin out the other calf. There is a product called o-no-mo that can be used to get the mom to lick the calf. Other ranchers use vaseline to rub on the cows nose so she can’t smell the calf.
Raising a calf on the cow is always a better option than bottle-feeding if possible but sometimes it doesn’t work that way.
Good luck and happy calving.