Ruminating with RealAg — Ep. 3: The Cow/Calf Bond, Orphan Calves & the Dangers of Bottle Fed Bulls

Debra Murphy

calfAs evolution should dictate, there are substantial benefits to social behaviour in animals, provided that behaviour increases their fitness (or likelihood to reproduce). We see unique social behaviour in many species, including ourselves and our bovine counterparts.

In cattle, social behaviours range from grooming to bonding, and witnessed accounts of cows protecting their young and their herd-mates are fairly commonplace. But these herd instincts can be tough to deal with as a producer, and even harder to understand. How does a cow know her calf? When is bottle-rearing okay; when does it become dangerous?

Related: A How-To Guide For Two-Stage Weaning

With calving season very much upon us, I took this conversation to Joe Stookey, professor of animal behaviour at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. In this podcast, we discuss some of these behaviours as they relate to calving, to uncover how cow/calf bonds form, orphaned calves and why you must never hand-rear a bull calf.


Debra Murphy

Debra Murphy is a Field Editor based out of central Alberta, where she never misses a moment to capture with her camera the real beauty of agriculture. Follow her on Twitter



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Tanmay Roy

Yes it’s true. Each animal have its unique social behavior. And some animal become special and lovable due to their unique social behavior. Thumbs up!

Frank Schlichting

Great interview! Would like to hear more from Mr Stookey in the future


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