At the end of July one of our Dexter’s, Rosie, gave birth to a bull calf. It was her first time but we didn’t envisage any problems. However, she didn’t really take to motherhood and refused to let poor little Albert feed.
We had to take drastic measures. Despite our efforts we couldn’t persuade her to let him suckle so we took the decision to remove him and try to feed him ourselves.
Rather than buying expensive dried milk from the feed store, we took a churn to a local dairy and collected 5 gallons of fresh milk every few days for just a couple of quid. They were also kind enough to help us out with a bucket load of colostrum to get him off to a good start.
Three times a day we filled an old plastic tonic water bottle with warm milk, fixed a borrowed teat on it and attempted to feed the little black beast. He hated it. Fought it tooth and nail every time. Three times a day we had to virtually force feed him just to keep him alive, it was very disheartening for us. Despite our struggles he appeared to be healthy enough but we didn’t know how long that would last since we ended up wearing most of the milk. Even tube feeding him failed miserably. We were at our wits end.
Back in June one of our goats, Belinda, had two kids and even though it was her first time too, she made a perfect little mother. Her kids thrived and I had hoped to share the milk with them but they drank the lot and were soon eating solids as well. Himself had made me a super milking table out of bits of old wood and pallets but sadly with the greedy kids, I had no need of it.
After a week or s0 of wrestling with the reluctant calf we came up with the idea of introducing him to Belinda with the hope that he might try to suckle. We let her in the pen with him and encouraged her onto the milking table with the help of a bucket of feed. Before we could turn around, he was on her like a rat up a drainpipe sucking away.
She wasn’t too bothered, more interested in the tasty nosh. She had a couple of feeble kicking attempts but that didn’t put him off for a minute.
From that day on we shared Belinda between her kids and Bertie calf until I managed to wean the kids completely. Then little Bertie had her all to himself. He came on in leaps and bounds with the help of the goats milk and now he too is weaned and we have all the milk for our own use.
At the moment he lives in a pen with the kids where they still share their food but will one day move outside with the cows.