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Last updated date: 16th May 2024
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A domestic baby cow or bull is known as a calf (plural calves). Calves are either raised to become adult cattle or killed for their meat (veal) and hide.

Baby Cow Information

  • Kingdom: Animalia

  • Phylum: Chordata

  • Class: Mammalia

  • Order: Artiodactyla

  • Family: Bovidae

  • Subfamily: Bovinae

  • Genus: Bos

What is Calf?

From birth until weaning, when the animal is known as a weaner or weaner calf, the word "calf" is used, but in some places, the term "calf" may be used until the animal is a yearling. Calving refers to the birth of a cow. An orphan calf, also known as a poddy or poddy-calf in British English, is a calf that has lost its mother. Bobby calves are young calves that will be killed and eaten by humans. A vealer is a fat calf that is about eight and nine months old and weighs less than 330 kg (730 lb). A heifer is a young female calf that has not yet given birth to her calf.

Early Development of Cow-Calf

Calves can be born either naturally or artificially by artificial insemination or embryo transfer.

After nine months, calves are born. They normally stand up and suckle within an hour of calving. However, since they cannot keep up with the rest of the herd for the first few days, young calves are often concealed by their mothers, who visit them many times a day to suckle them. The calf will follow the mother all the time by the time it is a week old.

Some calves are ear-tagged shortly after birth, especially stud cattle, to ensure that their dams (mothers) are correctly identified, or in areas (such as the EU) where tagging is a legal requirement for cattle. The calves are typically branded, ear-marked, castrated and vaccinated when they are around two months old.

Baby Cow Rearing System

The single suckler method of calf rearing is similar to what happens naturally in wild cattle, where each calf is suckled by its mother before it is weaned at about nine months of age. This process is widely used to raise beef cattle all over the world.

Cows raised on scant forage (as is usual in subsistence farming) produce a small amount of milk. A calf left alone with such a mother will easily eat all of the milk, leaving none for human consumption. The calf's access to the cow must be limited in certain situations for dairy production, for example, by penning the calf and taking the mother to it once a day after partially milking her.

Owing to the limited amount of milk available for the calf in such systems, it may take longer to rear the calf, and in subsistence farming, cows are also only calved every other year.

Cows can easily be raised and fed to produce much more milk than one calf can consume in more intensive dairy farming. In the multi-suckler system, a cow has many calves in addition to her own, and the mothers of these calves can be used solely for milk production. Dairy cow calves are more generally fed formula milk from a bottle or bucket from the time they are born.

Dairy cow replacement calves are raised as purebred female calves. Artificial insemination is used to produce the bulk of purebred dairy calves (AI). By using this process, each bull will support a large number of cows, requiring only a limited number of purebred dairy male calves to provide breeding bulls. The remaining male calves may be raised for beef or veal; however, some extreme dairy breeds have so little muscle that rearing purebred male calves is unprofitable, and they are therefore killed and disposed of soon after birth.

Growth of a Cow Calf

A commercial steer or bull calf can gain 32 to 36 kilogrammes (71 to 79 pounds) per month. As a result, a nine-month-old steer or bull can weigh between 250 and 270 kg (550 to 600 lb). At eight months of age, heifers should weigh at least 200 kg (440 lb).

Calves are normally weaned at the age of eight to nine months, but they can be weaned sooner depending on the season and the state of the dam. They can be weaned in paddocks, often near their mothers, or stockyards. Some people prefer the latter system because it acclimates the weaners to being around people and trains them to eat food other than grass.

Small numbers of calves can be weaned with their dams using weaning nose rings or nosebands, which cause the mothers to reject the calves' suckle attempts. When calves are taken to the massive weaner auction sales held in Australia's southeastern states, many of them are weaned. Yardings[clarification needed Please clarify yardings] of up to 8,000 weaners (calves) for auction sale in one day are available in Victoria and New South Wales. The best of these weaners might end up in the butcher's shop. Others may be bought by re-stockers as potential breeders or to grow out and fatten on grass.

These weaners could be referred to as feeders in the United States, and they will be introduced directly into feedlots. If a beef heifer is well grown, she will achieve puberty about the age of 12 months.

Digestive System of Cow Calf

Calves are ruminants, which means their digestive systems are highly adapted to allow them to consume plants that are difficult to digest. The rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum are the four compartments in a cow's stomach, with the rumen being the largest. The "honeycomb" refers to the reticulum, the smallest compartment. The primary function of the omasum is to absorb water and nutrients from digestible feed. The "multiple plies" is the name given to the omasum. The abomasum resembles a human stomach, which is why it's called the "real stomach."

Baby cows, like most ruminants, are known for regurgitating and re-chewing their food, a method known as cud-chewing. The food is eaten whole, without being chewed, and deposited in the rumen until the animal can find a quiet place to begin the digestion process. The food is regurgitated, one mouthful at a time, back into the mouth, where it is chewed by the molars, which grind down the coarse vegetation into small fragments. The cud is then ingested again and digested deeper in the rumen by specialist microorganisms.

These microbes are in control of breaking down cellulose and other carbohydrates into volatile fatty acids, which cattle use as their primary source of energy. Amino acids are also synthesised by rumen microbes from non-protein nitrogenous sources including urea and ammonia. Older generations of these bacteria die when they reproduce in the rumen, and their cells migrate into the digestive tract. In the small intestines, these cells are partly digested, supplying cattle with a high-quality protein supply. 

Cognition in Cow Calf

A baby cow can memorise the locations of several food sources and maintain this memory for at least 8 hours in laboratory experiments, though this memory fades after 12 hours. Adult cows with one or two calvings learn more easily than fifteen-month-old heifers, but their long-term memory is less reliable. In these studies, mature cattle perform well in spatial learning tasks and have a strong long-term memory. Calf checked in a radial arm maze will remember where high-quality food is for at least 30 days. Although they learn to avoid low-quality food at first, their memory deteriorates over time.

Senses in Baby cow

All five commonly accepted sensory modalities are used by the calf. These can help with some complicated behavioural patterns, such as grazing activity. 

Calf consumes a number of diets, but when given the option, they prefer a mixture of 70% clover and 30% grass. This preference follows a diurnal pattern, with clover being preferred more in the morning and grass being preferred more in the evening. 

Calves' primary sense is the vision, and they depend on it for nearly half of their knowledge. 

The sense of taste in cow calves is well established, and they can discern the four primary tastes (sweet, salty, bitter and sour). They have nearly 20,000 taste buds.

The calf has a hearing range of 23 to 35 kHz. Their best sensitivity frequency is 8 kHz, and their lowest threshold is 21 db (re 20 N/m2), suggesting that they have better hearing than horses (lowest threshold of 7 db). The average sound localization acuity threshold is 30 degrees. Calf, in contrast to goats (18°), dogs (8°), and humans (0.8°), have a lower capacity to localise sounds.

The calf has a variety of odiferous glands in their bodies, including interdigital, infraorbital, inguinal, and sebaceous glands, meaning that olfaction is important in their social lives. The primary olfactory system, which uses the olfactory bulbs, is used, as well as the secondary olfactory system, which uses the vomeronasal organ. The flehmen response makes use of the above olfactory system.

Mechanoreceptors, thermoreceptors, and nociceptors in the skin and muzzle sense tactile stimuli in calves. These are most widely used while cattle are discovering their surroundings.

Baby Cow Diseases 

Calves have few congenital anomalies, but the Akabane virus is widely spread around the world, from temperate to tropical climates. The virus is a teratogenic pathogen that causes abortions, stillbirths, premature births, and congenital defects in pregnant women, but it only occurs once every few years.

Baby Cow Uses

Veal is calf meat that is typically produced from the male calves of dairy cattle for human consumption. Calf brains and liver are also ingested. Calfskin is made from the hide, which is then tanned into the leather and called calf leather, or "novillo" in the United States. Rennet is formed in the fourth compartment of the stomach of slaughtered milk-fed calves. The intestine is the source of Calf Intestinal Alkaline Phosphatase, which is used to produce Goldbeater's skin (CIP).

Dairy cows can only produce milk after they have calved, and in order to stay in demand, they must produce one calf per year. Female calves will be used as dairy cow replacements.

FAQs on Calf

Q1. Why are there More Beef Calves Born in Spring than at Any Other Time of the Year?

Ans: The main reason we have calves born in the spring is to ensure that the calf has the best chance of survival and development. The days are getting longer, and the weather is great for growing big, weight-gaining calves. Since the grass starts to grow and is readily available to forage on, the feed input costs are lower than for fall calves, who need more food intake to get through the winter environment.

Finally, for many cow-calf herders, having spring calves fits better into their schedule than having fall calves when they are too busy harvesting crops to oversee and assist with birthing, if appropriate, and other issues that may arise. The cows are bred in June after planting season to ensure that they give birth the following year, preferably in March and April, just before planting season resumes. By the fall, the calves have grown (along with the crops) and are ready to be weaned and sold, or transferred to a feedlot or kept back and grown for breeding stock.

Q2. Which is the Easiest Baby Cow Breed to Raise?

Ans: Beef calves are the most profitable and straightforward livestock to raise. Beef calves only need good grass, winter supplementary feed, freshwater, vaccines, and plenty of space to roam. To begin raising beef baby cows, you can buy calves from dairy farms for a low price.