Did You Know Calves Can Get Nipple Confusion?

Did you know that babies can have nipple confusion? I didn’t until I was in the maternity hospital after my first and I was advised to feed him with expressed milk from a bottle occasionally before he reached 6 weeks or otherwise he might not be able to drink from the bottle if I wanted to leave him with someone while I got my hair cut etc. ?I totally forgot about it with my daughter and leaving her with a bottle of milk to my mum’s at about 2 months of age, my mum discovered that she just did not know how to suck on the teat. She had nipple confusion! So it went on until she was on solids and could drink from a cup and then I could leave her for a couple of hours knowing she wouldn’t starve or die of thirst!

Teat Feeding Calves

Happy she is drinking from a bucket again

Did you know that calves can get nipple confusion? I didn’t but I suppose it makes sense that it can happen. Depending on which calf shed they are in, some calves drink their milk from individual buckets and some drink from teat feeders. We had a few calves that were in the overflow section of the main calf shed and hence, were fed in buckets before being brought down to the old stable where they are fed with teat feeders. We had one calf, this little black beauty, that just couldn’t drink from it. The feeder has individual sections and she was taking so little from it and so slowly that we ended up swopping her with another calf so she could drink from a bucket again. She’s doing great. So yes, calves can get it too.

2 thoughts on “Did You Know Calves Can Get Nipple Confusion?

  • Maddi

    Hi Lorna. In one of our modules last year I was told that if a calf drinks from a bucket the milk goes into the wrong stomach that can’t handle it and they scour. Do you find this or is it one of those things that is very technical but doesn’t really happen?

    • Lorna

      HI Maddi, Have heard that too but we haven’t found an difference in the calves re being fed bucket or teat. Last year was the first time that about half of the calves were fed on teat feeders and we didn’t notice any difference on thrive etc either. Although looking back on the post I did on it last year, one lot of bucket fed calves didn’t thrive as well as the other bucket fed or the teat fed ones http://www.lornasixsmith.com/2013/03/16/feeding-dairy-calves-bucket-v-teat-feeder/

      Teagasc (the Irish Agric advice service) advises that all calves are tube fed with colostrum within 2 hours of birth. We only tube feed the occasional one if, for example, they just won’t feed. Don’t like tube feeding them tbh not to mention the hassle of it. Our vet told us recently that if they are tube fed, it goes into the ‘wrong’ stomach for digesting it so you would wonder what is right.

      I agree though, teat feeding does mimic the real thing best.



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