The question always comes up while giving a barn tour (which is wonderful, I always love questions).
“How long do you leave a calf with it’s mother after it is born? A few hours? A few days?”
The answer is this: “Hopefully, just a few minutes.”
Does that seem wrong to you? I am a mom, so I do understand the concept of bonding but I want to point out a few things.
1. We want the mother to rest. At our farm, we always want her to first lick her calf clean and then rest and recover from the work of giving birth.
2. We want the calf to be safe. If a newborn calf gets stepped upon by it’s mother, that is unacceptable to us.
There is really no benefit to waiting until the calf has nursed. We feed the calf a measured amount of quality colostrum collected from a herdmate a day or two prior. While knowing the amount of colostrum as well as the quality is important, the biggest benefit is knowing that it is clean. We thoroughly clean the teats before we milk cows every single time — a calf or a cow doesn’t have that ability. Trust me, birthing is not a cleanly endeavor.
Does this make sense? Typically, I see nods of agreement once I explain it this way. Each and every farm is different, and handles things as they best see fit. This is what works well for us.