Last week, one of our cows had twins, a girl and a boy. Here’s the girl:


Twins don’t happen very often, and that’s a good thing. Cows aren’t programmed to take care of more than one calf. They’ll take care of one, and ignore the other. But we decided to let her give it a try.

When Harland came upon them shortly after they were born, she had cleaned the afterbirth off both of them and the girl had nursed. But the boy was weak and cold. We figured he had been born first and then instead of the cow cleaning him off, she got distracted giving birth to the girl. In the meantime the boy, covered in afterbirth, got cold.  Harland got them into a little building away from the rest of the herd. He put the boy in a calf warmer (a little calf house with a heater) and gave him some colostrum. The next day the boy was feeling better, but hadn’t nursed.  So Harland fed him. The girl had a full tummy. The cow was doing her best to keep an eye on both of her kids, but as you can see in this video,  it was really stressing her out.

The next day, the girl calf hadn’t eaten, but the boy had. We figured she was only letting one calf nurse each day. While she was aware she had two calves, she was nursing them like she only had one. So Harland gave the girl calf a bottle and brought her to our place where I bottle fed her through the weekend, watched by our little herd of heifers, Eva the cat, and our resident possum. Her mom is doing fine raising just the boy calf.

Then Sunday morning, another of our cows had a calf who died within a few hours. We don’t know exactly what happened, but it seemed to have had a neurological problem. We hate losing calves. So sad.

 Hmmmm…we thought….now we had a cow without a calf, and a calf without a mom. So Harland put the cow in a headgate and put a “can’t kick” over her hips (a metal device that puts pressure on the leg nerves so the calf can’t kick),  and then we introduced the calf to her.  Surprisingly, the cow was very interested in the calf and even licked her.  But the calf was afraid of the cow and a poor sucker. She would latch on, suck half heartedly, and then let go. We worked at it for a half hour or so and gave up. We milked out the cow, poor thing’s udder was huge,  and fed the calf with a bottle.  We removed the “can’t kick” from the cow, released her out of the head gate and put her in a pen with the calf in an adjoining pen so they can get to know each other.

Harland is going to try to get the calf to nurse again this morning. We’re hoping these two will pair up. Otherwise, the cow will have to be sold.

Will give an update later today. Stay tuned….

**UPDATE**   Heard from Harland a bit ago. He said the calf did a better job nursing this morning  – still not putting her all into it, but better. Harland had a harder time getting the cow into the headgate – no surprise there, she remembers yesterday’s experience. But he gave her grain and she was happy with that. After wearing the “can’t kick” for a while, Harland took it off to see what would happen, and she didn’t kick the calf as it nursed. YAY!  She also licked the calf.  Cows NEVER lick any calf except their own.    After nursing, Harland put them in separate adjoining pens again, so they can see and sniff each other.  We want to play it safe until we’re absolutely sure that the cow isn’t going to hurt the calf.

So we’ll give it another go when I get off work.  We’re making progress!



Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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14 Responses

  1. Alica says:

    Awww…I hope the mom takes care of “her” new calf! I’m curious…will you keep the heifer calf and raise her to adult hood? With our dairy cows, when twins are born that are “one of each”, the heifer is often sterile. That certainly matters a lot in a dairy herd, but maybe not so much in a beef herd? Just curious!

    • Suzanne says:

      You’re right. We won’t be keeping her and will sell her at a year old with the rest of the calves.
      Are you calving too? Thanks Alica!

      • Alica says:

        One of the differences between dairy and beef, is that we calve all year long. Ideally, we have a rotation of dry cows and fresh cows all the time. These past few months, however, have been crazy! We’ve had over half our barn freshen since December 1! It’s just the way the breeding worked out, but oh my…that’s a headache to have so many at once! 🙂

        • Suzanne says:

          Oh my word. We only calve once a year from March through the end of April. I don’t want to even think about calving year round. It’s a rewarding time of year, but we’re always so glad when it’s done. 🙂

  2. Elizabeth Spehr says:

    I love your farm 🙂

  3. June Hilbert says:

    We had a similar experience which turned into an epic saga in our calving last fall. The adoption worked so we had a happy ending. I am hoping for the same for you!

  4. Carol says:

    What a sweet story, hope it works out for mama and adopted baby. How does the weather effect the cattle? Are they miserable in the cold? Thanks Suzanne for the pics!

    • Suzanne says:

      The cows have very thick fur…so thick that when it snows, the snow will pile up on their backs and not melt. Newborn calves are most vulnerable until they are clean and dry and then they can withstand the cold too. We have a little calf only a few days old that was out in below zero temps and was just fine.

  5. Louise S says:

    You had me at “twins,” lol.

  6. Vicky Kelley says:

    Thanks for posting this, great coverage for us who do not get to be around the farm. Hope all goes well in the following days.

  7. shoreacres says:

    The more I learn about farms, the more respect I have for people who farm. My goodness, there’s a lot to understanding and taking care of these wonderful creatures. Delightful photos and video, too.

  8. JB says:

    Grew up on a farm….I was “Mama” to the bottle feeders. Miss the farm.
    Your pictures are a good reminder!

  9. Jeanne says:

    I do hope this will all work out well for the little girl-baby and her “new” momma. I hadn’t heard that in cases like this sterility might be a problem. Hm! I always enjoy your photographs and videos. That’s interesting how the mother would feed just one at a time! Sorry about the loss of the other calf.

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