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It starts with a Moo.


No, this is not a beautiful sunset. It is actually the sunrise as I arrive at work for my 5:00 a.m. shift.

It’s a boy! Well a bull calf any way.  I had arrived early for my shift at work just in time to see two hooves sticking out the back end of the cow 1105.  Right then, I grabbed my camera to capture the action.  Fortunately, 1105 looked like she had everything under control and it looked like a normal calving was about to ensue, because to my knowledge there are no prenatal classes for cows.  Not that any class could really prepare you for giving birth to something that weighs at least 100 lbs..


Two front feet sticking out.


As 1105 enters more advance stages of calving, the contractions become more frequent and she lies down in the far corner.  Given the circumstance, she seems calm and ready to get rid of the calf she has been carrying around with her for about nine months, and the other cows in the pen with her become curious.  With each push more and more of the calf emerges headfirst with its eyes now open, seeing the world around him for the first time.  Not ever having used the video setting on my camera, I prayed that it was recording because I don’t think either the calf or 1105 would have been too willing to start this process over again.


As 1105 pushes, the calf's head emerges and his eyes open. Unfortunately for him, his first view of the world is another cow's backside. Not too sure why she thought this would be a good place to lie down.


With a final push, the calf is expelled. Shortly after, Mel ensures the calf is stimulated to breath by tickling its nose with a small piece of straw.  Within seconds 1105 is up checking up on her newborn and begins cleaning the bull calf.   It wont be long before he will be up and walking wobbly on his own to begin nursing.  The first 12 hours of life are crucial for the calf to receive colostrum in the milk from its mother.  The colostrum contains immunoglobulins that are passed on from the mother to the calf to strengthen the calf’s immune system against many potential pathogens.


Cabinet of implements such as a pair of ear taggers and some of the drugs commonly used for looking after the calves.

The calf and 1105 have only a few hours together.  At afternoon milking time they are permanently separated. 1105 is a “fresh” cow, meaning she has just calved, and will join the ranks of the milking herd.  The new bull calf is moved out of the calving pen and into the calf barn with the other calves.  Instantly, he has at least 25 new calf friends.  For the next three days he will continue to receive colostrum milk twice a day from his mother that is saved in a bottle when she is milked and brought back to the calf barn.


Calf friends

For eight weeks calves will receive regular milk and quickly learn to make the transition from bottle-feeding to drinking milk out of the bucket- some more quickly than others.  For eight weeks following that, they are fed calf starter, and once those eight weeks have passed they are gradually transferred onto a pellet diet.


Calf starter feed


Medicated pellet feed for the older calves.


While testing out his wobbly legs this new born calf has managed to stumble over to the wrong side of the fence as his concerned mother looks on.

The fate of heifer and bull calves diverges at a certain point.  The heifer calves are ear tagged and given a shot Calf-Guard to vaccinate against respiratory diseases, as they are hopefully to one day become replacements in the milking herd.  Bull calves are of very little use to a dairy operation because they do not produce milk.  They are raised for veal and often sold to buyers if they are not kept for the farm itself.


When their horns start to grow, the calves start to look like the little devils they can be sometimes.


Earlier at the start of my internship, a very special calf was born.  Affectionately called Allie by the farm, she was born about 45 days premature and was about 1/3 of the size of an average calf.  Commonly, calves born this early will not be healthy, or won’t even survive.  However, after nearly a month to the date, I am happy to report that Allie is doing well and has even grown a bit in size.

The young heifer calf Allie a few days after she was prematurely born.

The young heifer calf Allie, a few days after she was prematurely born.



  1. Cindy Lukianchuk says:

    Looks like the Dairy business is a lot of fun (and work). Great blog 🙂

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