Calf, the young of a cow, or of the bovine genus of quadrupeds. Whatever breed the calf may spring from, its natural food is milk; coming from the mother in a warm state, it is exactly adapted to the existing condition of her offspring. Milk contains materials for making bone, as phosphoric acid, lime, soda, etc.; for muscle, caseine; for fat, butter or oil, and sugar of milk, as well as a large percentage of water. Some breeders pursue the method pointed out by nature, allowing the calf to run with the dam till weaned; but in most instances this is considered unprofitable, particularly where the object is to secure the largest supply of milk and its products for sale. Thousands of calves are annually slaughtered at two and three clays old, when the milk of the cow is considered fit for use, the meat fed to swine or fowls, and the skin sold to the tanner. This wholesale slaughter at so early an age might be avoided by very simple means, and a large increase added to the dairyman's revenue, while the market would be supplied with more good veal and beef, and a greater number of cows would be produced.
Some dairymen have selected two or more cows from their herd for the rearing of calves, the latter being removed from their dams when two or three days old, and placed in the pen with the foster mother. Two cows, bearing at different periods, have fattened seven calves in one season. It is necessary that the foster dam have clean, well ventilated quarters, and the best quality of succulent food; in summer, sweet hay, clover, green corn, or rye grass, cut and carried to her, with an occasional feed of corn or oil meal if she and her family are not in a thriving condition. In winter the food should consist of the sweetest of hay, and at least one peck of sliced roots morning and evening, with meal and a little salt sprinkled over them. When an increase of milk is desired, additional quantities of roots or mashes made from meal, or shorts scalded and made thin with water, should be fed. In the natural state, the cow yields milk enough to rear the calf, then ceases to give milk until the next calving. Man has bred cows for milking qualities, rendering both the length of time for giving milk and the quantity given greater than are required for the calf; hence two evils arise: the calf, if left with the cow, is overfed, and her milking qualities are injured.
For these reasons a calf should be nursed by a cow kept specially for that purpose, or reared by hand. Robert Colt of Pittsfield, Mass., says: "Take the calves from the cow, and feed them with three quarts of new milk twice a day for three months, adding after they are three weeks old a little rye and corn meal scalded; then wean off upon dry provender, and grass, roots, or hay, as the season may be." Or, "Take the calf directly from the cow, put some dry fine salt in its mouth, and feed on flaxseed jelly and hay tea for one or two months, till the calf is able to eat grass. The jelly is made by boiling one pint of flaxseed in a gallon of water; pour boiling water over sweet hay and extract its good qualities; the two are then mixed together, about one pint of jelly being used to two gallons of hay tea per day, with an occasional addition of oil meal." This will do in the absence of milk, but cannot be highly recommended. Feeding on sour milk has been tried, and beeves have been produced at one year old of 500 lbs. Calves when taken from cows are usually fed with skim milk, being allowed to suck the fingers immersed in the milk until the habit of drinking is established. The milk must be given blood-warm, and may be enriched by boiled potatoes mashed, or thin mush from Indian corn meal.
About 16 to 20 pints per day is the usual quantity of milk. Cold milk is apt to purge the calf; if this occur, the use of one or two spoonfuls of rennet will remove the difficulty. Never overfeed a calf, or it will become pot-bellied and permanently injured. As soon as frost occurs, pen the calves, and give sweet hay with a few sliced carrots or other roots, with a little salt. To prove profitable, a calf must show daily improvement, and never suffer the least check in growth. In the isle of Jersey no calves feed from the cow. Mr. Moss of Connecticut has invented a pail with a simple gutta percha teat at the bottom. The pail is filled with liquid food, and suspended in the stall above the calf, which feeds from it as from its dam. - For treatment of diseases, see Youatt and Martin on cattle.