Dairy cows suckling their calves naturally

Autumn calving has started - our first 2 calves were born overnight.  There are another 58 due before Christmas.  We are especially excited because these calves will stay with their mothers and be suckled naturally.

For those of you with long memories, we first trialled this method of rearing calves exactly 4 years ago.  It was tremendous from an animal welfare point of few, but horrendous for our finances and for our mental health! 

We learnt a lot from that trial, and have always planned to try again once we’d made changes to help us manage the calves better.  Last time we left the cows and calves together 24/7.  This would be the ideal system, if it wasn’t for the fact that the calves drank 80% of the milk… 

This time we will leave the cows and calves together 24/7 for the first 3 weeks, then as they get a bit more independent we’ll leave them with their mothers during the day after the cows have been milked in the early morning, then separate them late afternoon.  When the cows and calves are separated they’ll be in adjacent fields and still be able to talk to each other and rub noses – they just won’t be able to suckle!

This will guarantee that we get at least 50% of the milk that we get just now, so that we can carry on making ice cream and cheese. 

We also intend to only milk once a day.  We’ll get the milk first thing in the morning, and then calves will get it during the day, so there will be no afternoon milking.   Once a day milking, now that is much less stress for the cow – and us humans!