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Dr. Taus, Veterinarian
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Experience:  Veterinarian with experience in equine and small animal medicine.
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I have a two month old beef calf whose mother died when she

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I have a two month old beef calf whose mother died when she was 5 weeks old. I have been feeding her 2 quarts of mild replacer 3 times a day; 7 a.m.-2 p.m.-9p.m. I have tried two brands of calf starter pellets and cow "sweet feed" pellets, but she won't eat them. So, I started giving her sweet corn (1 ear in the morning and 1 at night, and graduated the amount up to 3 ears twice a day. I'm cutting the soft sweet corn in half inch slices including the shuck and silk and a few green leaves, but no stalk. Her stool is not runny, but it is loose and I'm wondering if I am hurting the calf. If I am what do you suggest? My plan is to feed the sweet corn for hopefully about six more weeks and then chop new field corn until I switch her to cracked corn , supplement, and mineral. In the meantime the only minerals she is getting is in the milk replacer. She is also drinking about half a gallon of water a day. Thank you.


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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I have not received an answer of any kind, and don't understand what information you would need. I did this method because all our vets within a reasonable distance are either horse or pet. The other large animal vets can't travel the distance to my farm without a prohibitive bill. Since this was a nutrition matter I thought this would be a good way to handle it, but I just don't have a good grasp of what is supposed to happen. I guess I assumed a veterinary would read the question and answer. Please advise.


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Hi there,
It's pretty common for young calves on milk replacer to have softer stools, as long as they don't have scours (liquid stool staining down the back legs). That being said, I don't recommend the sweet corn or new field corn because it's not nutritionally balanced and you run the risk of bacterial infections like listeriosis in wet feeds that aren't strictly kept free of oxygen (just like happens with spoiled silage).

You can start weaning a bucket calf at 4-6 weeks of age. I recommend getting a good quality calf starter and giving a handful immediately after each bottle. No, she won't want it at first, but with time she will figure it out. You can also take a bottle and cut a big X in the end of the nipple and fill the bottle with starter. Hang it in her pen and when she goes to chew/nurse at the bottle in between feedings, she'll get a little bit of feed. Once she is eating, gradually decrease her milk, and stop feeding milk when she's eating 2- 2 1/2 lb of starter a day. If you are feeding milk 3X a day, she is getting plenty of calories that way, so you don't have to worry about her eating enough-- it's just a matter of getting her on the feed. The sweet corn is very tasty, so having fed that may make it take longer for her to catch on to the starter.

You can also start giving her a little hay or access to grass at this age, as well as a mineral block. Don't force her, though, just let her check it out and munch on it a bit if she wants.

Having raised many a bucket calf, I know I was always excited to get them weaned and not have to mess with (expensive) milk replacer so much. With a little stubbornness, I think you can have her on calf feed in about a month.
Dr. Taus, Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 505
Experience: Veterinarian with experience in equine and small animal medicine.
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