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The small animal nursery

When calves are born, they start a cycle. All the male calves born at Caldermeade Farm are sold and all the female calves are reared as herd replacements.

Calves are usually born front feet first with the head between the front legs. If there is only one leg and the head, or just the head showing, then we will assist them. A mature cow usually takes 1–2 hours for the full birth process from when the ‘waters’ initially break. Maiden heifers can take up to 4 hours.

Cows usually give birth lying on their side with legs outstretched. Sometimes they may appear to be dead when they are really just relaxing between contractions.

Calves are fed 4 litres of milk twice a day, as well as grain, pasture and hay until weaned at 10 weeks old. They are then fed grain for a further two months and grass until fully adapted to pasture. Weaned heifers (young cows up to 2 years old) are run on a nearby farm.

When cows are being joined there is often paint on their tails. The different colours signify whether they have been joined and, if so whether they are pregnant.

Did you know?

  • A cow has to pump 400 litres of blood through her heart to produce 1 litre of milk
  • A lactating cow drinks more than120 litres of water a day and eats up to 75kgs of grass and 6kgs of grain
  • When the milk leaves the cow it is at blood temperature (38C) and is cooled to 4˚C within 1 hour
  • A cow has 4 stomachs (ruminant) consisting reticulum, rumen, omasum and abomasum. Feed is consumed quickly, and then regurgitated from the rumen for further chewing (cudding) whilst the cow rests. It then passes further along the digestive system. Sheep, goats and deer are also ruminants
  • There are 1.8 million dairy cows in Australia producing ~9.2 billion litres of milk every year. 70% is produced in Victoria
  • Caldermeade Farm contributes about 3 million litres per year
  • The number of dairy farms in Australia has more than halved from 22,000 (1980) to fewer than 8,000 today.