Nurse Cow questions

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chipsahoy
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Nurse Cow questions

Post by chipsahoy » Thu Feb 27, 2020 1:02 pm

Hi Everyone, I see lots of talk about nurse cows, but many of the topics are older and I am not sure if I can ask questions there or not, as some of those people may have moved on.

I have purchased an Angus/Holstein Cross heifer and I am hoping to raise her as a "nurse cow". I am planning to breed her angus, and raise her calf for sale, and another dairy calf for myself. Or it is possible that I might wean those two at 4 months and raise two more calves on the cow.

I grew up on a Holstein dairy farm and we housed the cows in tie stalls. I should mention that I live in Canada, and winter is real.

Would you build two pens, one for the cow, and one for the calves, and put the calves on the suck twice a day? or leave the calves with the cow?

What do your cow pens look like? Size? I know that some people use stanchion or stall to get the calves graphed on.

I guess what I am asking first of all is how would you house your Nurse cows? and how do you feed them if you keep switching calves?

thanks,



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Re: Nurse Cow questions

Post by SBMF 2015 » Thu Feb 27, 2020 8:07 pm

Treat them like a milk cow.
A friend of mine told me that many years ago the USDA told his father that they had to plum running water into there barn where they milked to maintain there grade A classification. They decided to quit milking and turned there dozen milk cows into nurse cows. These were Holstein and Brown Swiss cows in full milk, so they put four calves on each cow. They let the calves nurse twice a day. While the cows were tied in stantions, just like being milked. Once the calves got eating well they weaned them, and got a new set the same day. So the cows never missed a "milking" .
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Re: Nurse Cow questions

Post by chipsahoy » Thu Feb 27, 2020 8:23 pm

OK, thanks for the help Sounds easy enough when you say it fast. lol I was going to buy two beef / Holstein cross heifers but decided it was too expensive, so I will start with one. I figure in order to make one cow pay for herself, I need a bit of a unique management system to increase the income. I figure one nurse cow would be less work than two cow/calf units and just as many or more calves, so as much income. So I can build my cow a tie stall and still put two calves on her at a time. I figure I need to feed her more like a dairy cow to keep her production up and not sacrifice her health. The tie stall would only be a winter thing, with turn out of course.

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Re: Nurse Cow questions

Post by Ky hills » Thu Feb 27, 2020 9:22 pm

When I had nurse cows, I also had a few Angus Holstein cross. I put 2-3 calves on them. I kept the calves in the barn while they were on milk. They were in 12’x12’ stalls and if weather was good I let them out in a lot during the day. The cows were out in pasture and came up to feed at morning and night. I let them in the stalls to eat as the calves nursed. The amount of time I left the calves on a cow was from 2-4 months depending on how many calves we were getting if it was slow then they stayed on longer. I usually got 3 or 4 calf rotations from a lactation. Sometimes I left the cow’s own calf on her longer as most times they were more cooperative if their calf was in the group. Depending on the cow I had one Angus cross that could take 4 calves at a time. For me it worked better to keep the calves up so they could have access to feed and to keep a watch on them health wise too. The cows can be somewhat cantankerous about taking other calves so it can be difficult to get new babies on them sometimes.

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Re: Nurse Cow questions

Post by chipsahoy » Fri Feb 28, 2020 5:36 am

Ky hills wrote:
Thu Feb 27, 2020 9:22 pm
For me it worked better to keep the calves up so they could have access to feed and to keep a watch on them health wise too. The cows can be somewhat cantankerous about taking other calves so it can be difficult to get new babies on them sometimes.

Ok<I wondered how hard it would be to get the cow to take an extra calf, or two. What techniques did you find worked best?

did you give the calves some feed too so that when they weaned they were ready to eat it well?

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Re: Nurse Cow questions

Post by Ky hills » Fri Feb 28, 2020 7:17 am

chipsahoy wrote:
Fri Feb 28, 2020 5:36 am
Ky hills wrote:
Thu Feb 27, 2020 9:22 pm
For me it worked better to keep the calves up so they could have access to feed and to keep a watch on them health wise too. The cows can be somewhat cantankerous about taking other calves so it can be difficult to get new babies on them sometimes.

Ok<I wondered how hard it would be to get the cow to take an extra calf, or two. What techniques did you find worked best?

did you give the calves some feed too so that when they weaned they were ready to eat it well?
It varied by cow as to how easy or hard it was to get calves on them. Some were easy and some were nightmares and all points in between. I let the cows in the stall with the calves and they readily went in because I had a feed pan on the inside of the gate. For me them eating was the key they loved to eat and it was enough distraction to occupy them. Occasionally a cow would turn around and but a calf off but usually they kicked. Most times they would just swing their foot to get the calves off. I have stood and pushed against their flank to try to prevent kicking. A lot of times the forward ness of the calf was a major issue if they knew how to nurse and latched right on that helped tremendously. If they were slow or unsure then that commotion got the attention of the cow and made her resist too. Sometimes it would take a few days to get the system going but usually once it did it was pretty smooth sailing. The cows always worked better as long as they had their own calf, they were a little fussier after their calf was weaned.
I kept calf starter/developer feed in the stalls with the calves so they would start eating as soon as possible. I would also put a little feed in their mouths after they nursed to help them get a taste of it from just a few days old. I forget the amount of feed that they are supposed to be consuming at weaning but usually by the time they are a couple months old they are eating quite a bit and ready. It’s important to keep them on a good calf developer ration for a little while after weaning and then transition over to something else that will still have adequate protein and nutrition for that small and growing calf.

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Re: Nurse Cow questions

Post by chipsahoy » Fri Feb 28, 2020 3:40 pm

Thank_you for the information. My heifer is only little so I have lots of time to learn ab out nurse cows. Once my heiefer goes to pasture I will have all summer to build her some proper accommodations.

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Re: Nurse Cow questions

Post by farmerjan » Sat Feb 29, 2020 3:11 pm

There are a couple of other threads on nurse cows. A couple of us have been doing nurse cows for years. Look under the "got Milk" thread section here.

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