There’s not many things out there cuter than a bottle calf, but there’s a few things to know before you get one. 

There are a few reasons as to why we even have bottles calves in the first place:

  •  First, they can get separated from their mother when they are out on pasture.
  •  Second, the mother dies during the birthing process or shortly after. 
  • And lastly, they are deliberately separated from their mother immediately after birth so the dairy farm can obtain the mothers milk instead of the calf. 

I’m sure there are a few more reasons out there, but these are the most common ones. 

Bottle calves can be found almost anywhere and it is a deeply rewarding project so, if you find yourself interested in getting one I suggest considering these things before taking that plunge. 

  • Do you have the time to actually bottle feed one? 

bottle calf

A healthy calf only needs 2-3 bottles a day. That doesn’t sound like it’s too time consuming, but on cold winter mornings or hot summer evenings it can be a slight inconvenience to your day. Calves just like most animals (and human babies) thrive on a set schedule. If you can get your calf on a feeding routine that works for you both, then you’re already on your way to making a great parent for an orphaned calf in need! 

  • Do you have a safe location for your calf? 

Bottle calves usually come immediately or a few days post birth. This means that even though they are a large animal they still need a safe place to feel comfortable. Instead of putting them out on pasture with your other cows or horses consider setting up a small corral close to your house. Not only is this for your convenience of not having to fetch a calf twice a day for feedings, but also to keep it safe from animals who may prey on it during the night. 

  • Why do you want a bottle calf? 

This may seem like an obvious question, but it is one to consider. Most people get bottle calves because they are significantly cheaper than current cattle prices, but they also take a substantial amount of work and time to maintain. So these people are usually getting one (or a few) to eventually send off to the butcher and get steaks and ground beef in return. Then, there are some people who have always wanted a pet steer/heifer and figured there’s no better way to have a gentle one than to raise their own. 

I’m part of that latter group. I had always wanted a steer that acted like one of the dogs so when a bottle calf ended up in my lap there was no way I was going to turn him down. For some, this can sound like an overwhelming process and a waste of time, but I find that to not be the case. It is a rewarding job and one that I quite enjoy even when it gets stressful. 

Please remember one thing before getting a bottle calf though. You can do absolutely everything right and still lose your calf. Read that again. In order to get a bottle calf there had to

be some amount of trauma projected onto that baby. This means that even the ones that seem perfectly healthy at first can lose their will to live and just give up. Babies are delicate no matter what species they are. 

If you have/had a bottle calf what are some things you considered or wished you would have considered before getting it? I’d love to hear from you! Drop a comment below or reach out to me on my personal Instagram @unbridledmama.

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Emily Griffin

Emily Griffin is a mama to three stunning daughters, a wife to her hunky husband, an experienced equestrian, and an Arizona native. She is also a certified doula and owner and founder of Unbridled Mama Doula Services. She resides in a very small town in Southeastern, Arizona. Her days consist of raising children, everything equine, reading/ writing, and balancing the fine line between motherhood and insanity. She appreciates nature, the smell of a satisfying rain, and the lovely sunsets the Arizona deserts have to offer. Her life is unbridled in every sense of the word and she wouldn't have it any other way! Follow her on Instagram at @unbridledmama.