Our Cuddle Pen
Trying Something New
After being born, calves are moved to a pen in the calf barn, or in warmer months outside. This separation happens within a few hours of being born and before the mother and calf bond.
Our experience has been that it is less distressing for the mother and the calf to be separated in this time period.
If we allow the calf and mother to stay together and bond - even for a day - then when they are separated they are both very upset for days.
Separating the calves also allows us to manage how much milk the calf receives. (Because Holsteins are great milk producers, they will produce too much milk for the calf to digest. If the cow and calf remain together, the calf can be over fed which results in the calf having diarrhea, and the mother has a greater chance of developing mastitis.)
The Cuddle Pen
In August, we decided to try a 'cuddle pen' to allow the calf and mother to be closer to each other after birth and to slow down the separation process.
Here is it, set up at the front of the Main Barn just past the Voluntary Milking Systems. The pen provides the calf with room to walk around and it's mother (and other cows) can drop by to interact.
Here is a different view of the pen, to give you an idea of it's size and location.
This was our first time trying the cuddle pen, and in the first day the mother visited often, but then by the third day was not visiting anymore. After 5 days the calf was moved to a group pen with other calves of similar age.
Why Try this?
There is a lot of concern from consumers about why it is necessary to separate mother and calf after birth. Our experience is that the longer they are together the more difficult the separation can be.
However, at the same time we are always looking for new or better ways to do things on the farm. For example, we know some different ideas are being tried in Europe and we are monitoring how these go.
Looking for more information?
You may also want to read a blog we did last year called "About Our Calves".
Keep the Discussion Going
We know that not everyone agrees with dairy farming and may have even chosen to become vegan for this and/or other reasons.
Animal welfare is one of the biggest concerns we hear about.
If you have questions, please let us know! (Although, we do ask that you keep your comments amd questions respectful.)
Even if we don't agree it's important for everyone to better understand how food is produced.
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