Yesterday, I spotted a tiny calf next to its mother and went to investigate. It looked too tiny, even from a distance. On my way across the paddock, I nearly missed another black and white bundle almost perfectly hidden in the grass. A second calf! Unlicked and still with a wet cord, this calf had been abandoned and she was tiny, too. About 9kg instead of the 40kg we’d normally expect for a healthy friesian newborn.
It turned out that she was the premmie sister of the other equally as small but far stronger heifer (female calf) who’d followed her mother. The cow, who’s one of the youngest in the herd, showed little interest in either of the twins and both were in urgent need of some TLC.
It’s critical that calves get a good feed of colostrum in their first 24 hours of life. This milk, which is only produced by newly-calved cows for a few days, is incredibly rich and full of antibodies. Researchers have found colostrum consumption this early leads to marked differences in the health of cows over their lifetimes!
We brought the twins – named Ella and Bella by Zoe – back to the shed, sat them in the sun on a thick bed of fresh sawdust, dipped their cords in a mix of iodine and glycerine to prevent infection and gave them both a feed. I am hopeful for the stronger of the two, Bella, but the weakest little one, Ella, does not suckle well (never a good sign) and her breathing is not clear, so she’s had a shot of antibiotics to ward off pneumonia and give her immune system a fighting chance. We fed them three more times during the day and both seemed a little better. Fingers crossed.