What To Do When A Calf Won’t Bottle Feed

When the Bottle is Empty, Make Your Exit—Quickly
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As a farmer, one of the challenges you may face is dealing with a calf that refuses to bottle feed. This can be a frustrating situation, but it is important to remain calm and find a solution. In this article, we will discuss some tips and techniques to encourage a calf to drink from a bottle.

1. Assess the Situation

Before taking any action, it is crucial to assess the situation and determine the possible reasons why the calf is not drinking from the bottle. It could be due to health issues, stress, or simply a dislike for the taste of the milk replacer.

2. Check for Health Issues

If the calf is not showing any interest in the bottle, it is essential to check for any health issues. Look for signs of illness such as a runny nose, coughing, or diarrhea. If you suspect any health problems, consult a veterinarian immediately.

3. Evaluate the Milk Replacer

Another reason why a calf may refuse to bottle feed is the taste of the milk replacer. Evaluate the brand and type of milk replacer you are using. Some calves may prefer a different flavor or brand. Experiment with different options to find the one that the calf finds most appealing.

4. Ensure Proper Bottle Temperature

The temperature of the milk replacer can also affect a calf’s willingness to drink. Calves prefer milk that is warm but not hot. Test the temperature on your wrist to ensure it is suitable for the calf. Adjust the temperature accordingly if needed.

5. Use a Different Feeding Method

If the calf continues to refuse the bottle, try using a different feeding method such as a bucket or a nipple bucket. Some calves may find these methods more comfortable and be more willing to drink from them.

6. Encourage Socialization

Calves are social animals and may feel more comfortable drinking from a bottle when they are surrounded by other calves. Encourage socialization by placing the calf in a pen with other calves and observe if it makes a difference in their willingness to drink.

7. Be Patient and Persistent

Dealing with a calf that won’t bottle feed can be a time-consuming process. It is important to be patient and persistent. Offer the bottle regularly and try different techniques until you find what works best for the calf. Remember that every calf is different, and what works for one may not work for another.

8. Seek Professional Help

If all your efforts fail and the calf still refuses to bottle feed, it is advisable to seek professional help. Consult with a veterinarian or an experienced farmer who may have encountered a similar situation before. They can provide guidance and assistance based on their expertise.

9. Consider Weaning Options

If the calf is old enough, you may consider introducing solid food or transitioning to a different feeding method. Consult with a veterinarian to determine the best weaning options for your calf’s age and health condition.

10. Monitor and Adjust

Once you have found a solution and the calf starts bottle feeding, continue to monitor their progress. Regularly assess their health, weight gain, and overall well-being. Make any necessary adjustments to their feeding routine to ensure they are getting the proper nutrition.


Dealing with a calf that won’t bottle feed can be challenging, but with patience, persistence, and the right techniques, you can encourage them to drink from a bottle. Remember to assess the situation, check for health issues, evaluate the milk replacer, and ensure the proper bottle temperature. If needed, try different feeding methods and encourage socialization. Seek professional help if necessary, consider weaning options, and monitor the calf’s progress closely. With these tips, you can overcome this hurdle and ensure the calf’s health and well-being.