Cows/Cattle/beefmaster calf

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QUESTION: we have a calf that was born 2 days ago  out of a 1st time heifer, and i've noticed that when the calf is trying to nurse the cow keeps on kicking her back feet and she ends up hitting the calf to get it off, but she cares for it and calls it when its not around just when the calf is trying to nurse. although she lets the calf nurse for little bit and kicks again. i saw also that the calf has an underbite. i really dont know what to do or what could be the problem. thank you

ANSWER: Hello,

I'm suspecting the heifer may have mastitis of one or more quarters, which is pretty evident by the way she keeps kicking off the calf. Usually with mastitis the teat and part of the quarter may be inflamed and hot to the touch, warmer than the other teats that should be normal. If you milk it out, a quarter with mastitis may have milk that is the consistency of cottage cheese. If this isn't evident and you still suspect mastitis, get the vet out to get a check done on her, because he/she will have a mastitis kit that they use to easily detect mastitis in the heifer.

The other possibility is that she doesn't have mastitis at all, but just has to figure out that the feeling of the calf suckling at her teats is something she's going to have to figure out and eventually get used to. Though it's possible that the underbite of the calf may have something to do with it (if it's not significant it shouldn't be that much of an issue; calves are usually born with a slight underbite and grow out of it eventually as they get older), the teats and udder are a sensitive area--even without having a painful inflammation of the teat and quarter--and for a first time heifer, it can be a bit daunting and overwhelming to have to get used to at first, which may lead her to be uncontrolled in her kicks. The calf is also a stubborn one too, thanks to mom, and if he keeps at her and she learns to control her kicks, eventually things will smooth out and she will learn not to kick at her calf every time he tries to suckle from her.

But I'd still check to see if the heifer has mastitis. If not, just let the heifer figure it out, because it sounds like she's got the idea of being a good mom, but still needs to figure out the calf-suckling part and getting used to the feeling of the calf being on her like that. After all, this is her very first calf and very first lactation!!

Good luck, and hope everything turns out for the better!

-Karin

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: she is a very tame heifer and i went to see if there is anything wrong and i milked her with my hand to see if she would kick, but she didnt, plus when i cornered her and her calf she let him nurse. but when she is free she just does the kicking thing and i see her she is trying to control it. but i'm just worried about the calf not getting enough milk. plus i heard about tying a rope in front of her udder so she stops kicking. idont know

ANSWER: I think she just needs time to figure things out herself. If she's letting you milk her and lets her calf nurse when she's confined, and everything else appears normal (no mastitis infection or anything), then I think you just need time and patience on your side to get her to figure things out. You can only do so much because after all is said and done, it's all up to her to figure things out by herself on her own. Though you could hobble her, and have the hobbles on for a few days to help teach her to curb her bad kicking habit, but as I said, it's still all up to her in the end.

As far as the calf is concerned, just make up a bottle of milk replacer and give it to the calf to see if it's hungry enough to take it. You might have to give the calf a little milk whilst the heifer is still trying to figure things out, but don't give too much otherwise you'll teach the calf to be more dependent on you for the milk bar than his mom. At first here he might not get what he should and you should feed him a little (probably half to two-thirds what he should get for the first couple days), but I'm sure that eventually things will settle, the heifer will get her kicking under control and he'll be able to get all the milk he desires from the milk bar.

Good luck and take care,

-Karin

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: sorry i'm bothering you so much. i tried milking her by my hand and she didn't kick or anything and the milk looks normal, her udder is not swollen at all or anything, she is eating fine caring for the calf but she still kicks when it tries to nurse,but she lets him nurse from behing her, but her udder when i pushed up on it its little bit hard towards the top next to her body, and her udder doesn't seem to be that full of milk unless the calf nurses it. but she still gives out milk

Answer
Hi, it's fine. :)

Is this on all quarters or just on one quarter in particular? It almost sounds like it still could be some form of mastitis infection, which hasn't quite gotten to the serious stage yet. It's not uncommon for a cow to have mastitis and still have milk that appears normal to the naked eye, but when a mastitis test is done, it can test positive for this infection. I'd get the vet out just to be sure. She'll keep giving milk even when she has an infection, that is not uncommon at all. Even in severe cases when the milk gets a cottage-cheese consistency and a cow will have a quarter all swollen up and sore, milk will still be produced, just not the kind that looks good enough to drink.

The other question I have is that is the calf able to suckle other quarters, or is he getting kicked off no matter which quarter he tries to suckle from, especially if he tries going in from the side? Suckling from the back sounds very familiar, because he knows she can't kick him from there and he can still get sufficient milk. He's a smart one!  Which still has me strongly believing the heifer still needs more time to figure out this whole mothering thing out.

-Karin  

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Karin L

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Forage-Beef Extension Specialist. Knowledge in almost everything to do with beef and dairy cattle. Strong points include forage production, pasture and rangeland management, grazing management, breeding/calving/weaning, cattle genetics, breeds, feeding and nutrition, starting-up, and most physiological questions. I AM NOT A BOVINE VETERINARIAN; so please any questions that concern serious health of your cattle must be taken to your local large animal veterinarian.

Experience

Part of a farm family that bought, raised, and sold stocker/backgrounder steers; assisted with health management, handling, feeding, pasture management, and forage production. Also worked at local mixed-practice veterinary clinic. Experience with cattle included breeding soundness exams on bulls, castration, fixing prolapses, preg-checking, C-sections, calf pulling, vaccinations, etc. Worked at a local farm and ranch supply store selling medications and feed for livestock. Research assistant for the University of Alberta with range health assessments, and helping with various rangeland research projects. Always learning and gaining more experience as time goes on.

Publications
Alberta Farm Express Agri-News and Call of the Land (Alberta Agriculture)

Education/Credentials
BSc in Agriculture (Animal Science Major) @ University of Alberta, June 2015 graduate, but started studies in 2005. An Sci degree allowed me to specialize and gain significant knowledge in beef & dairy cattle production,animal behaviour and reproduction, ruminant nutrition, forage production/management, rangeland and pasture management & ecology, and plant identification.

Past/Present Clients
Various eef and forage producers in Alberta, CAN

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