I currently have five dairy cows who are due to calf in May and I am in upstate NY. Four of the five cows (jersey crosses) raised their first calves last year on the farm. We are drying them all off from their yearlings two months prior to their expected delivery date. Our fifth cow is the boss cow (holstein) has raised two calves previously that I grafted on her two years ago when we purchased her.
I am increasing the size of my herd to be sustainable enough to raise and sell springers or family milk cows in our local area.
Thanks for any suggestions or insights that you can provide.
Hi, Scott! It sounds like you have a good, viable plan there.
We don’t have any special method for grafting because, as you seem also to have experienced, with Jerseys and Jersey-cross animals there doesn’t seem to be any difficulty. All of our cows readily nurse multiple calves, every cow nursing any calf that approaches her. It’s a good problem! When we want to take calves off their mamas so we can get more milk, we just move the weanlings to a separate pasture with a lactating cow or two to nurse them. So long as the babies can’t get back to their birth mamas, the separation is enough to induce the little ones to shift to the foster mothers.
Like you, we leave calves on their mothers until they are ready to wean — they make much stronger, better calves, don’t they? — but if we were going to bring in very young animals from off-farm with the intention of grafting them and we needed to be sure the babies were getting their stomachs full, we would put mama and babies in a temporary sacrifice paddock with calf-proof fences (rather than just polytwine) where we could keep a closer eye on them and make sure the adoptees were getting filled up. If I had any doubt about how much baby was getting, I’d supplement for a few days with whole milk from a calf bottle.
We hope this helps. It sounds like you are on top of it!