Unusually, for many years we have adopted second calves onto our dairy cows – for reasons we’ll go into in a future blog. But right now, we’d like to share the adoption process, and focus on Snowdrop, who gave birth to Self-heal a few days ago, and her adoptive son, a half-Angus.
During the day, Snowdrop goes out into the field with Primrose to eat grass.
Snowdrop’s own calf Self-heal and the adoptive half-Angus calf stay behind in the barn.
This separation of the cow from the calves actually mimics natural behaviour. Like deer and rabbits, cows will leave their young while they go off grazing for several hours.
Later in the afternoon, Snowdrop is brought into the barn, she is full of milk and Self-heal and the black half-Angus suckle at the same time (Snowdrop is more likely to tolerate the adoptive calf if her own calf is feeding). In this video the Angus-cross is just behind Self-heal.
When their stomachs are full, calves like to explore their surroundings.
Snowdrop has not yet fully accepted the Angus-cross and must be supervised.
This is more maternal behaviour, with Snowdrop’s own calf.
When both calves have had enough milk, we take some for our own needs as Snowdrop has plenty.