Why are Dairy Calves Separated from their Mothers?
The other day I was looking through social media, as many others do on a slow day. As I was scrolling, I came across an article that expressed some interest about why calves are taken away from their mothers.
When calves are born, they are very fragile. They are born with no active immune system and they are a tenth the size of their mother. When cows calve, or give birth, they have a bunch of hormones going through their system, and they become restless. When they keep moving around there is a greater chance they may injure the calf.
There is more risk to keeping a calf with a cow besides injury. There are numerous illnesses that a calf can get from the mother.
Another reason why calves are separated is that calves can be frequently and effectively monitored when they are in their own housing unit, or calf hutch. When calves are born they don’t have a great immune system, so they need to be fed colostrum, or the cow’s first milk, to fill them with antibodies and immunoglobulins so they can have a great start at life. But, when they are with a cow, you cannot tell if they get the necessary four quarts of colostrum in their system. Another added bonus to the calf hutches is that calves have less risk of acquiring a disease, because they are not having nose to nose contact with other calves, which spreads disease easily.
So the next time you see an article that seems to be alarming, don’t be afraid to ask a farmer for the truth. We care for our animals, and we always have.
Jessica Nash is a Michigan Dairy Ambassador who has an undying love for cows. She is also the president of the Ovid-Elsie FFA chapter, and enjoys competing in Leadership and Skills contests with her chapter. Jessica competes at the Michigan Dairy Expo where she puts her dairy knowledge to the test. Last year, she was able to travel to the North American Livestock Exposition with her Dairy Quiz Bowl team, where they received 4th as a team and had a 10th high individual on the written test. This year Jessica was elected on the Junior Holstein Board where she will help plan and prepare for the National Holstein Convention, which will be held next year in Traverse City, Michigan. Jessica enjoys any opportunity to get involved within the dairy community.