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Management

Producers can expect the occasional bum as calving season begins in Wyoming

Written by Natasha Wheeler

“If a producer has a really good year, there won’t be any bum calves,” comments Summer Hanson, a veterinarian at Powder River Veterinary Hospital and Supply P.C.

Many producers, though, can expect one or two bum calves a year, possibly spotting one in the pasture looking weak or trying to steal milk from different mothers.

“Oftentimes, when a cow has twins, she isn’t able to raise both,” Hanson says.

The mother cow may claim only one calf. If she claims both, the rancher might choose to intervene to bum or graft one of the calves.

Other bum calves may be a result of a cow with low or poor milk production.

“If the herd is calving out in the pasture, a cow just might not claim her calf,” she adds.

In any case, it is important to make sure new calves have colostrum as soon after they are born as possible, Hanson notes. 

“Colostrum has antibodies that calves usually get from their mothers when they are first born. It helps them so that they won’t get as sick, and it gives them a better start,” she says.

Powder River Vet Hospital carries a number of products, including a colostrum paste, called Nursemate ASAP, that can be administered orally or a powder that can be mixed with water.

“Producers want to use the products with higher IgG, which is a type of antibody,” she notes.

After providing colostrum, many producers will use milk replacer to feed calves, which comes in different varieties.

“We only carry replacer with a milk base,” she says. “Baby calves don’t have a developed rumen, and they don’t digest soy products very well.”

Milk replacer is made with either a soy or milk/whey base, which should be marked clearly on the label.

“It is better to graft onto another mother cow if the opportunity is there,” she comments.

If another cow has lost a calf, the bum can often be grafted to her so that she will raise it as her own.

“The new calf won’t smell like her own baby, so there are a few things that a producer can do when grafting,” Hanson explains.

If the mother doesn’t want to leave the calf she has lost, the baby’s hide can be draped over the bum to carry the scent.

“There is also a product called Orphan-No-More that is a kind of powder that gets rid of the odor of the bum calf,” she says.

Producers that have purchased the product from Powder River Veterinary Hospital have returned to buy more, indicating that it is an effective product.

“It can be applied to a newborn calf or a producer can dampen the bum to apply it. It is better if the hair is damp,” she notes, adding, “but we don’t want the calf to get too wet and get it chilled down.”

If grafting is not an option, some producers will use a milk cow to nourish a motherless calf.

“A milk cow, depending on the breed, can support up to four calves,” Hanson explains.

Often, producers will make an arrangement with a neighbor who owns a dairy breed to buy or raise the calf.

“A producer might give a first-year heifer some slack, but if a cow in a herd isn’t a good mother, she should be culled,” Hanson notes.

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..