Cows Adopt Babies Too

When we have a cow that won’t or can’t take care of her calf we often consider adoption.  If we already have a good mother cow that has just lost her calf, we make maternal magic happen! We have to be quick, though, because there is only a 1-3 day window when the cow would most likely take another baby.

In bovine adoption, there isn’t any paperwork to fill out, but there is a pretty, shall we say, interesting adoption process.

First we put the mother cow in the barn with her dead calf. We give her a little time to lick and bond with her lost baby before turning her back out in the corral.

Now this part is a little tough, but it’s the only way to really make sure the orphaned calf can be adopted. We carefully remove the hide of the dead calf, making sure to leave the tail and the bottom area intact because that is where the mother smells to make sure she has the right baby. Four lengthwise slits are made at the edge of the hide for the orphaned calf’s legs.

For the adoption process to move forward, we position the hide over the new calf and pull its legs through the slits. Baling twine is threaded through the leg holes and tied under the calf’s neck and belly to secure its new coat.

Now it’s time for the moment of truth! We put the mama cow in the barn where her dead calf was and show her the adoptee with its new coat. Most of the time the mama cow will give an affectionate little moo and we know she has accepted the calf as hers.

Now the calf may be reluctant at first and we, as the adoption experts, might need to get him up or nudge him in the cow’s direction from time to time. But hunger will always force him to accept his new mom. The adoption coat can be removed in a couple of days once the mama cow and calf are throughouly bonded.

The best part of this whole scenario is watching how carefully the cow looks after her newly revived calf. She’s going to make extra sure nothing happens to it this time.

From RealRancher, DeeAnn B. Price – Boulder, Wyo.

5 thoughts on “Cows Adopt Babies Too

  1. It is really neat to see how much love the cows have for there babies. The cow’s mannerisims are not much different from a human’s mannerisims with their children. Very protective!

  2. There have been times when the cow will act like she likes the baby but still not let it suck, sometimes my hudsband will build makeshift hobbles built from a burlap bag….this will keep the cow from kicking the calf and give him a chance to get some warm milk for dinner.

  3. I’ve heard of this web site and only just found it. This is a neat article…and grafting has worked for many decades of ranchers.
    fyi…Prices live out of Daniel WY rather than Boulder WY.

  4. An easier trick that works for me is to get a half pint or so of milk from the mother-to-be and rub that into the adoptie’s hair, especially around the head and tail where she’s most likely to sniff first. A little potion called O No More, or a little salt helps. If you can get the cow to lick the calf, your job is done!

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