Why do dairy farmers take the baby calf from the momma cow?

I get asked this question every year at least twice. It's a great question. I can only speak about how our farm operates and our reasons why. 

A Long productive healthy life for momma cow.

  • When a calf feeds on momma cow, the calf will usually favor one or two quarters causing the cow to have an uneven bag. A calf will also feed whenever it wants, causing a greater chance of allowing pathogens into the cows teat canal. These factors can lead to production and health problems, shortening the life span of the momma cow. 

Protection and safety of our animals and us.

  • Our cows, most of the time, have their calves out on pasture. We watch, and keep count of the momma cows. A cow will separate itself from the herd to give birth. We have had a coyote attack a momma cow and her new born calf in the middle of the afternoon. We were there in time to collect both animals with only minor injuries. The predators will leave the cows alone as long as they are in a herd. This is a big reason we put the baby calves in the calf barn to keep them safe. 

Building a trust and bond with the calf for the future of the herd.

  • A calf that is hand fed with a bottle forms a trust and bond with humans. When that baby calf becomes a 1000 pound animal, this bond and trust keeps that animal calmer around humans and that keeps us safer. There is nothing like, a crazy, wild eyed, 1000 pound animal, coming at you, to understand the importance of this trust and bond. Together, we learn to respect each other at an early stage in the calf's life. 

Sanitation and healthy product for you to safely enjoy.

  • A calf needs the colostrum from the momma cow, the golden milk made perfectly for baby calf. Calves aren't born with an immune system. Their immune system is built by the golden milk from the momma cow. It's full of antibodies we call IG (immunoglobulins) this protects the calf from disease. A calf doesn't sanitize the teat like we do with iodine and if a calf nurses off a cows dirty teat the chances of a pathogen getting into both their systems is great. An dirty teat can lead to sickness or even death for the calf. A calf requires milk from momma cow for 2 months to fully build it's immune system. This is why we feed milk to our calves and not formula. We also like to consume the milk from momma cow. We drink fresh unprocessed whole milk, a.k.a. "raw" milk. A cow that has the calf always sucking on her has a better chance of getting a pathogen into her teat canal. This can lead to mastitis or other bacterial problems, bad for the cow and for us drinking the milk. A healthy cow produces healthy, clean tasting products. (mmm...butter, cheese, yogurt, ice cream...good!)

We will always do what is best for our animals. 

Our reasons for taking the calf from the momma cow, doesn't stem from being in business just to produce dairy. It comes from what is best for the animals and the humans that live in a symbiotic relationship together. Our farm has many threads in the web of life. 

"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect." ~Chief Seattle

Momma Cow Michelle and her beautiful baby calf Christian.  

Momma Cow Michelle and her beautiful baby calf Christian.