The effects of bucket feeding

For a calf, learning to drink from a bucket is a crazy idea! A calf is supposed to suckle. She was born with a natural suckling instinct and so training her to drink from a bucket can take time. There are many devises like floating teats to make training easier, however troublesome training is only the start of the problem.

When the calf drinks milk from a bucket the oesophageal groove stays open and milk flows into the rumen as well as the abomasum. We know that the rumen is not equipped to deal with milk and the milk ferments causing gut ache and acidosis.

Bucket feeding calves is an old-fashioned system, common in some parts of the world and unheard of in others.

Buckets are cheap to buy or are often given away and so can be an attractive option to those wanting to reduce equipment costs

Absolutely no saliva is produced.

Calves are extremely unsettled and will hyperactively cross suckle after feeding.

Calf management is high.

Although cheap, bucket feeding should be avoided as the most unnatural and unhealthy system for a calf.

The take-home message

Just because buckets are cheap, or even free, doesn’t mean you should use them to feed calves. Bucket fed calves need a lot of intervention so the 'free' bucket ends up costing you in the long run.