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Separation Anxiety among Dairy Cows, is it a thing?
As humans, when learning that calves are separated from their moms soon after birth, it is only natural to assume the experience is a painful one for both the cow and the calf. As parents, the thought of someone taking our child, undoubtedly gives us chills! Do dairy cows have these same emotions? Does it upset the cow or calf when the separation takes place? Isn't it better for cow and calf to stay together?
Here are a few things you may want to consider:
1. A dairy cow is different than a beef cow.
A beef cow is more likely to exhibit maternal behavior than a dairy cow. They typically are also more defensive of their calves than their dairy counterparts.
2. Calves are NOT born with antibodies.
Unlike humans, calves do not obtain their antibodies from the mom's placenta. Instead, they absorb antibodies from colostrum through their stomach lining. This absorption period is limited to the first few hours of a calf's life making it imperative that every calf receives the correct amount of quality colostrum in a timely manner. If left with mom, we cannot guarantee timing, quantity or quality, missing out on a key aspect to providing a calf with a good foundation to life.
3. Not all colostrum is created equal.
The quality of colostrum varies from cow to cow. By saving a cow's colostrum, we can ensure that our calves only receive quality.
4. The correct amount of colostrum is critical.
If a calf doesn't receive enough quality colostrum, they will have a poor immune system, making them more likely to become sick. By feeding colostrum to the calves ourselves, we ensure they will receive the needed amount.
5. They need protection while their immune system is being built up.
As with human newborns, calves need to be isolated from the general population, maybe even more so. We protect infants from being exposed to pathogens by limiting visitors, requiring visitors to wash their hands, and preventing infants from putting germ-ridden objects in their mouth. As farmers, we can't require our cows to "wash their hands" nor can we prevent calves from sucking on things such as other cows, gates, walls etc. To protect our calves, we place them in pens, stalls or hutches that are cleaned and sanitized between occupancies. As they get older, they are introduced to group pens and eventually placed back with the herd.
6. Cows don't always make great mothers.
We'll be honest. There are cows with great maternal instincts.
They lick their calves clean and generally take care of them.
However, this is not typical for many dairy cows.
We've had moms that won't lick them clean; moms, especially new ones, that don't have any idea what they're supposed to do. We've even had some that have laid or stepped on their calves, injuring or even killing them. While this isn't necessarily a frequent occurrence, we can prevent this by separating the cow from the calf.
7. Calves especially newborns should be monitored closely.
We keep newborn calves in a centralized location so we can monitor them closely. As parents, we know our children. If a child is displaying certain symptoms, such as a sore stomach, fever, or lack of appetite, we know that something is wrong and they're most likely sick. It is the same with farmers and their calves. We know our calves, We know if they're feeling "off". We know the signs indicating when a calf may be sick. We care for them, shelter them, feed them, and treat them with medication (under veterinary protocol) when needed.
But what about their emotional pain? Don't they cry when you separate them?
Simply put, no. Yes, there are the exceptions. There are some that will be protective of their calves but for the most part, they are more interested in their food than their calf. If you haven't already, please watch the video above displaying the typical response of a cow when we separate her from the calf.
So, do dairy cows and calves experience separation anxiety? Not normally.
Do dairy cows have the same emotions as humans? No
Does it upset the cow or calf when the separation takes place? Not typically.
Isn't it better for cow and calf to stay together? In our opinion, the health benefits to the calf far outweigh the rare occurrence of a cow noticing her calf is gone.
If you don't buy or consume dairy out of concern for calves, please be confident that our calves are well cared for as are most dairy calves. If you don't buy or consume dairy because of other animal welfare concerns, please talk to a dairy farmer (you can ask us!) about those concerns.
Unless they have experience in dairy farming, don't let actors, actresses, or sports stars be your "go to" expert. Be cautious about accepting as truth, videos produced by organizations and individuals who want to end all animal agriculture. Be aware of motives. Understand how lighting and music can change a scene. Watch for words like "steal" "rip" "anguished" and "rape"; they are a sure sign of an author, speaker or producer with an agenda.
If you still decide not to consume dairy, that's fine but at least you know both sides of the story and can make an educated decision about what's best for you and your family.
CALVES, CALVES AND MORE CALVES!
How we dehorn our calves
Miss March #5199
Born March 1, 2017
Introducing Miss March! I've decided to choose a specific calf, #5199, and document her life as much as I can. If you look at her tags, you'll see the # we use to identify her. You'll also see her birth date, 3-1-17, her mother's #4529 and her dad's #507J1471.
On her birthday, she received her ear tags for identification and her jacket to keep her warm. She also received colostrum necessary to help develop her immune system and had her navel dipped with iodine to help prevent infection and illness.
Keeping Things Clean
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