In 2005 we purchased our first
four Highland cows, two of which were in calf.
The first calf was discovered tipped upside down in a Tomo with his head
stretched back, but as Mum was placidly grazing at the top of the hill, Doug
was able to pick him up and carry him to a place of safety so he could be
properly cared for. One lucky
success!! We were not so luck with our
second calf – a heifer, who died unexpectedly within a few hours.
Being new to Highland cattle,
Doug decided the cow would be happy to foster a Friesian cross bull calf, but
unfortunately he didn’t ask her, and she was distinctly annoyed at the
idea!! We found out some time later that
Highland cows will not accept a foster calf.
We therefore resigned ourselves to getting the cow and calf into the
yards twice a day until weaning. After
about eight weeks, we were surprised that the calf had stopped drinking when he
was brought in, and the following day we saw him drinking from his foster Mum
in the paddock. Success number two,
although a success that was hard-won.
troubles continued the following year, and once again a foster calf was
purchased. This time it was a case of
love almost at first sight, much to our relief.
We had decided to separate cow and calf to encourage more kindly
treatment of the calf while the cow became used to him, and so he could become
hungry enough to feed strongly. Despite
the bad start to calving, from her third calf on, the cow has produced and
successfully raised her own calf.
We had considered ourselves
fortunate that we had few dead calves, but once again we had a first calver who
has lost her first two calves. This year
we were given a Highland/Friesian bull calf, and after three feeds the cow fell
in love with him. Again, we used the
separation method as a way to safe-guard the calf from kicks and from filling
up on grass. They are now an inseparable
pair, and we can say with confidence that Highland cows WILL foster calves – but
in a few cases it may take some patience before it happens. We could probably put the time factor in our
first experiment down to our own inexperience rather than the cow.
To update: in the 2016/17 calving year, we had 50 cows calve and needed three foster calves for various reasons. Most years we have no deaths, however when we need to, we use the same method to mother on and it has worked very successfully.