Friday, November 24, 2017

Predictors of Extended Time to Bucket Train

From a sample of 1,235 calves from one dairy researchers recorded the number of feedings required to successfully train a calf to drink from a bucket. The colostrum was administered with a tube feeder. 

Starting the second day of life the calves were fed 2.1 quarts of whole unpasteurized milk twice a day. After 3 days of age nearly 60% of the calves consumed their morning milk meal without assistance

I was interested in how rapidly the remaining 40% of calves picked up drinking from a bucket. By day 5 the proportion drinking without assistance was 92%. From my on-farm work perspective I remember bucket training taking a fair amount of work at every feeding even though we averaged only 2 to 3 newborn heifers daily.

Bull calves and twins regularly required additional days to drink from a bucket without help from a care giver.

One tip that made this work go easier for me in cold weather - remember that it is easier to teach a calf to drink when the milk is warm; that is, between 100-105F. During cold weather (in Western New York that means at least from October through April) I filled between 8 and 12 nursing bottles with milk and loaded them in 5-gallon pails partially filled with  120F water. We would drop off these pails at the newborn hutches. Either a co-worker or myself started feeding the other calves that were already drinking from buckets. The other person would dump one bottle into a bucket and work with the youngest calf (remember the other bottles are sitting in warm water). Repeat process for the second calf, and so on.

Once we adopted this warm water bath procedure we cut out training time nearly in half - no more trying to teach drinking with cold milk!

Reference: Mandel, C. and Others, "Predictors of time to dairy calf bucket training." Journal of Dairy Science 100:9769-9774. December 2017

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