After giving birth, cows tend to care for the offspring immediately. Unfortunately, some reject their calf, preventing them from nursing.
If a heifer, a female cow that has borne a calf, doesn’t show any affection towards her child, here are some tips to try to get them together:
- Restrain the cow if she won’t let her calf suckle. There are some cases when a confused or indifferent cow will begin to warm up to its child after nursing. Additionally, suckling stimulates oxytocin production, which triggers milk generation and mothering behavior.
- Check the heifer’s milk production. Some mothering cows don’t have enough milk at first and ignore their calves until they produce enough for nursing. It’s important to give heifers a little time to work their hormones out.
- Separate the mother from the calf if she starts kicking her young. If the cow is aggressive towards her young, keep them separated for a day or so in adjacent pens. Put them together every eight hours to allow the calf to nurse with supervision to keep it from getting hurt. Usual reluctant mothers become more interested in their calves after a day or so, but others take a week or two before they can be put together without guidance.
- Do not punish heifers who hurt their children, as this does more harm than good. Beating cows with a stick or forcing them to nurture their calves won’t improve their attitude and could make the cow even harder to handle.
Remember, it takes patience, good husbandry, and a keen sense of observation to properly manage cattle.