Dairy Calves in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming
Dairy cows are usually given about two months of maternity leave before they give birth to a calf – that way their bodies can focus on their growing baby. They live in a separate area during this time and are given special feed and attention.
Once a calf is born, it is taken to a special “nursery” of sorts where all calves have their own private calf hutch, away from the older animals. There are a number of reasons for this including:
- Calves do not have built-up immune systems, so exposure to older animals can put calves at a higher risk of infection.
- Cows sometimes get aggressive when they have calves. This can cause fighting, and be dangerous for the calves and mothers in the barn.
Immediately after giving birth, cows – like humans – produce special milk called colostrum, which farmers give to the calves by bottle, in part to protect the cow’s udders from newborn calf teeth. Colostrum provides the calf with high levels of protein and fat, as well as antibodies for the calf’s immune system.
Calves are usually housed in their own individual pens with hutches so that farmers can keep a very close eye on them and make sure they stay healthy. This also allows them to have a cool, shady spot to lie down in summer. In winter, the calves’ hutches get lined with straw or hay to keep them warm. Some farms even give calves jackets to wear in the winter so they don’t get cold.
Calves are the future of a dairy farm, so farmers take very good care of them. They get vaccinated against common diseases, are checked on several times each day and given a near-perfect blend of milk and feed to help them grow.
Once calves are old enough to have developed immune systems, they live in groups with others about their age. They usually stay in this same group for the duration of their life on the dairy farm.