Icalve half of my suckler cows in August/September and it generally works very well.

Most years they calve outside and mainly they are able to calve by themselves. Maybe that’s because they are outside and are generally fitter, or perhaps it’s because I’m inclined to give them more time to work away by themselves.

Whatever the reason there is a lot less work with them than the cows that calve in the spring – there is no bedding, cleaning out or carrying feed, and add to that the fact that there is a lot less disease problems.

When the cows are dry over the summer they are an easy batch to manage as they can be grazed very tight or housed for a while if there is a shortage of grass, or the weather is bad. There are definitely a lot of plusses to calving suckler cows in the autumn on this farm.

I also have a purpose-built house for my autumn calving cows which is a huge benefit, with the cows kept on slats and the calves given access to a bedded creep area.


When housed, I keep the calves away from the cows and only let them in to suckle the cows and then take them back out.

The reason for this is that it helps give the cows stronger heats and it also means that the calves are less likely to get hurt when the cows are in heat. In addition, with the calves separated, I am able to give them access to good quality silage and meal.

This has worked well for me for a good number of years with only one major drawback - I am plagued with cows sucking each other.


I’m not sure why they do it, but it is really frustrating. To see two cows standing up sucking each other and two big balls of froth under them really does my head in.

This has been going on for years. Some people have told me it’s because they are lacking in minerals. Well, they are fed powdered minerals as well as having minerals in the meal, so I doubt if that’s the reason.

Others have told me that it’s hereditary, but I have tried culling the culprits only to find that there is always someone new to take their place.

I normally put anti-suckling devices in their noses, and this works reasonably well. But there are a few problems; obviously, some fall out and some wear away the points, and then you have the cows that can manage to get them flipped up. I have heard of farmers putting in two (one pointing up and one down) but I haven’t done this yet.

One quarter

This year, as usual, I have put these devices in the cows that I remembered from other years. In total I have them in about one quarter of the autumn calvers, but as usual it wasn’t enough.

I had two different cows started it this year (two young second calving cows) and they were a complete torture. I dithered about for almost a week hoping they would stop but they didn’t.

When I let their calves in to suck there was no milk left so the calves had to try other cows. I eventually got round to getting two more “anti-suckling” devices and this time I tried a different type with no jaggy points, so it will be interesting to see how this works.

So far, they have stopped sucking each other but it took two or three days for the calves to realise that their mothers actually had milk and to go back to sucking them. One more week and they would probably have been weaned and not went back to their mothers at all.

I usually like to offer a little advice to other farmers in my articles, but this time I’m looking for help. Is this only a problem on my farm? Have other farmers experienced this? Most importantly, has anyone a solution?

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