Starting bottle babies: getting the stubborn ones to nurse
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Do you have a bottle baby that just won't nurse? Are you struggling to get him or her to take the bottle? Wether it’s a calf, lamb, or goat, you're not alone. Many people find themselves in this situation, and there are ways to get your bottle baby to take the bottle. In this blog post, we'll discuss some of the methods that have been successful for others and give you some tips on how to make bottle feeding your baby easy. So read on and hopefully we can help get your bottle baby nursing like a pro!

Having bottle babies around is so fun, especially for kids. We usually have lambs in the spring and surprise calves throughout the year. Regardless of the species, the tips can be used for all babies. Starting from the 1st steps to the “he just won’t nurse!” Steps. 

1) hold the calf between your legs. Backing it into a corner helps if it’s a bigger calf. Using your fingers open the calf’s mouth. Towards the back of their mouth there is no teeth to bite you with. Slip the bottle into their mouth and slowly rock it up and down. This stimulates the suckle reflux on the roof of the mouth. 

2) Using your finger, place your Nuckles towards his tongue and stimulate the suckle reflux with your finger. Getting the calf to suck your fingers. Then insert the bottle and rock as in step one. 

3) while holding the bottle in the mouth and rocking, gently stroke down the throat to stimulate the swallow. Start under the chin, you’ll feel a “v” between tendons and move down the throat slowly. 

4) while holding the bottle in the mouth and rocking, if possible, reach behind you and stroke the calf’s back from tail towards head. Firm, but slow. You’re simulating how a cow would lick the calf while nursing. 

Usually by the time I get through these steps, the calf will at least be attempting. Some however need a little extra. I recently had one that would not nurse for anything. I even tried lengthening time between feedings to get her hungry. And then tried more frequently. She ended up being tubed, had a firm flexible tube passed into her stomach to get something into her. When calves are week sometimes they need milk with a suger/electrolyte mix tube fed just to give them the energy to try nursing later. 

Calves who have been on the cow a while and then orphaned are very difficult to get to take a bottle. Here are some additional tips I gathered from other farm wives trying to help my recent difficult calf. 

1) Holding the calf as described in the above #1, let your hair down and fall over one of the calf’s eye. While holding the bottle, rocking, and scratching the back. Sometimes it looks like a coordination & flexibility  exercise.  Not completely sure why this one sometimes works, but the best guess is your hair simulates the mother cow’s body hiding part of the view. This could be very helpful if the calf has lost its mother. 

2) switch the nipple up. Try a more worn out nipple (they tend to be softer) or a brand new one. Try faster or slower nipples. 

3) try different temperatures of milk. Calves used to the real stuff are used to milk at around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

4) Add a little syrup to the nipple. Something sweet and tasty to increase the incentive  to suck. 

Have you tried any of these tips to get your bottle calves to nurse? Let me know in the comments how they worked for you and if you have any other great tips to share. And don’t forget, if all else fails and you still can’t get your calf to take a bottle, you may have to tube feed it for a few feedings. Remember fed is best. Thanks for reading, and happy farming!

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