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Nipple feeding newborn calves isn’t difficult because they instinctively know how to suck, and it’s easier than teaching them to drink from buckets. This is a new learning experience for your calf, so be patient and persistent.
Getting the Idea
Because nursing is a natural reflex for calves, you’re halfway there. Gently poke one or two fingers into the front of his mouth -- yes, he has teeth, but only in the bottom jaw. He should begin sucking instinctively. Let him suck for a few seconds, remove your fingers and quickly replace them with the nipple. Give the bottle a little squirt so the calf gets a good taste. He should accept the transition readily.
But I Don't Want That
If the calf spits the nipple out and continues to refuse it, pull on your big girl panties and take charge. Back him into a corner or against a fence so he can’t get away from you. Straddle his neck and clamp his head between your thighs. Cradle the calf’s lower jaw with your left hand and press your thumb into the left side of his mouth. Poke your fingers into the right side of his mouth.
Pull his head upward and hold it against your belly. Guide the nipple into the calf’s mouth with your right hand. Squeeze the bottle slightly to force a little milk into his mouth -- his only choice is to swallow. Let him take a breath and repeat. He should get the picture soon.
- Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service 4-H Youth Development: Feeding a Bucket Calf
- Highland Cattle USA: Getting That Problem Calf to Nurse
- Future Beef: Calf Rearing
- Mother Earth News: Instructions for Raising Bottle Calves
- University of Florida Lee County Extension Service: Caring for the Orphaned or Abandoned Calf
- University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Hand Feeding Young Calves
- AgroMedia International, Inc.: Colostrum and the Newborn Calf
- University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: Feeding and Managing Baby Calves from Birth to 3 Months of Age
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Sheridan County: 4-H Bucket Calf Project -- A Guide for Parents, Leaders and 4-H Exhibitors
- YouTube: Bottle Feeding a Baby Calf
- YouTube: How to Use an Esophageal Feeder
- Steve Baccon/Digital Vision/Getty Images