Is Bottle Raising Some Livestock the Best Choice?
The following is what I've found to be true on our farm. It has also proven true for most farms/farmers I know well.
Folks can figure out what is best for their animals in the course of time.
We pull and bottle-feed dairy goats here most of the time. We have also found bottle raising dairy cattle is far and away the better choice.
I usually only buy bottle raised goats and cattle. I've made a few exceptions. I've usually regretted it, but not always.
I want to be sure to give our buyers this same courtesy I hope for, as well.
While dam raised kids/calves can occasionally be friendly, I've rarely found most aren't friendly enough in their new homes to make the buyers feel comfortable and make the animal low stress in this transition when compared to bottle raised kids / calves.
Most are not friendly, but some folks work hard enough to create exceptions.
Dam raised kids are not as likely, even when friendly, to accept all people the way bottle kids do. They still look to their mothers for nutrition where the bottle kids look to and count on human caretakers.
Dam raised babies may be friendly on your farm because they are used to you, but when they leave, they often do not have any reason to bond to the new folks, and I hear via calls and emails how upset buyers over these types of offspring are. Often, they find, even when they were friendly at the seller's place, the new animals are wild at their place.
So, when these dam raised kids or calves go to a new buyer and prove very wild, this quickly discourages new owners on their dairy venture . . . to not mention the fear the goat or calf endures. They get passed on and on, eventually many of these animals go onto a stockyard or dying of poor care somewhere down the line.
Bottle kids / calves think anyone with the bottle holds the key to life, and they love everyone (now and again, they love too much). They do not care who you are, if you have that bottle, you are mama. Now, someone will chime in with a story about a wild bottle kid (usually if this happens, it was lamb-bar raised kid, and that isn't the same), but again, there are always exceptions.
I've met a handful of truly friendly dam raised goat kids and have never met a truly friendly dam raised calf. It is rare you encounter a wild bottle raised calf or goat.
I like to increase my odds for what is favorable in my animals. Ease of handling is worth a lot to me. The value has proven to be very high in buyers.
People assign too many human emotions to animals, and so I assure you when I pull goat kids away minutes after birth, my does could CARE EVEN LESS than less.
The kids think I'm mom from the very beginning and are thrilled to be inside in a tub in my kitchen in warm bedding with no fighting to eat. They all get the same amount each feeding.
I guess we could compare it to bottle feeding newborn kids if you're an adoptive parent or opt to not breastfeed. It is fine. All that matters is excellent care and a full belly to the babies.
Sometimes, folks note a lower parasite and cocci exposure when raising kids apart from the adult herd, too.
I find the kids from a birth will grow evenly when pulled because they do not need to fight other kids to eat. I'll take this spot to mention that I DO NOT feed any replacers. I feed whole goat's or cow's MILK from my herd or from the store. Both will work.
They have a more gentle mama in me than their natural one would be, and they keep a life long ease of handling for worming, kidding help, milking, vaccines, taking blood, trimming hooves and there is little need to catch them, as they follow you wherever you go.
Kids or heifers can go to educated buyers you chose at a young age, so they grow up with their future milking owners and give the same ease of handling for those people. This is just one step toward setting a dairy animal up for lifetime farm homes and the buyer for success.
I've found dam raising can cause does and cows pain in terms of raw, bleeding teats and constant nursing kids. I get these messages and calls often when folks are milking.
Animals have bleeding, raw teats and there is a fight to be milked because the kids / calves are making the udder and teats hurt. I have known does and cows to have hardened udders from scar tissue where offspring has butted them over and over, as well. Watch and observe how very rough kids/calves are. They are rough. I've seen many goats run away from their kids when I dam raised years back - NEVER does this happen with hand milking. The does
run to the stand. It is very gentle process. Goats and cows enjoy it - they eat grain and have routine they thrive on twice a day - udders and teats are never bruised or bleeding.
Folks talk about nature, but they do not consider dairy goats and cows to not exist in nature. The huge udders and big teats and tremendous production are things people developed, so it is no shock the care revolves about human involvement and work.
When kids nurse constantly, the orifice never closes. This leaves the udder open to infections / mastitis. That is something folks rarely consider. It has been proven in those who monitor bacteria counts in dairies, though. Raw milk small dairies, too. Dam raising does have higher rates of mastitis, too. If kids are on nursing, they can transfer an infection in one side to the other. It is a mess. It can spread through the herd if kids try to nurse other does, as well.
If you let cows and does bond with the kids/calves, to a degree, they mourn a bit when offspring are removed, but if one uses common sense or has any experience, they know that even if the offspring is 6 months old and sold or when the cow is bred or when the calf/kid is sold, the cow and calf / doe and kid will mourn then, too. I've found it is worse the longer they have the kids or calves. If you pull them right away, there is very little stress.
Nothing cruel about it, as many 5 year old children cry their first day of school or day care or staying over with family, then they decide it is wonderful and move on. Animals do, too.
Also, speaking of calves, they will nurse (not as often in goats) even after the dam is rebred and after you've kept them apart, and using weaning rings and so forth becomes a real mess.
Lastly, remember, Buck kids will breed their dams before they are old enough to be weaned, and then the doe is bred back too early by her own buckling. Nature is pesky like that. You have to wean the buck kids by about 8 weeks to be 100% safe, and that is TOO young for the kids to be off milk and grow properly. So if you don't bottle raise, you're in a really bad spot.
Buck kids will breed their female litter mates too young, as well. Bottle raising lets the kids stay on milk as long as needed without worry because the kids are raisedi away from the
adults, and the buck kids can be moved away from doe kids when it is time.
At the end of the day. . .my guess is you will find, if you dam raise, it is because people work less initially, but overall, having done it and bottle raised, I do not prefer it.
It is more initial work on the farmer to bottle raise, but the return has proven worth the work.
Nature is interesting, you know? It can be better and it can be worse.
I remind folks that dairy animals are a man-bred creation: selective. Don't agree? Try hanging out naked in a blizzard. . .you'll appreciate your unnatural clothing and a fire or shelter pretty quick.
You can try all things on your own and see what works for you and the animals in your care. . .there are modified systems experienced folks come up with that can work well.
I started with dam raising and saw it wasn't what I wanted for the animals or my own farm for the most part.
Folks can figure out what is best for their animals in the course of time.
We pull and bottle-feed dairy goats here 90% of the time. For time purposes, we've mostly dam raised calves and ended up with wild calves.