How to Bucket Train a Calf

A couple weeks ago for Farm Tip Friday, I outlined how to bottle feed a calf. This week I’m going to tell you an even easier way to get them fed – bucket training! It is really easy to bucket train a calf and it makes feeding time much quicker for you. 

Once your calf knows how to drink out of a bottle and is doing well, bucket training should come pretty easily. If you’ve ever been around a calf, you know they will try to suck on everything. This is what makes bucket training so easy! If you hold out two fingers, the calf should come over and latch on immediately. This is how I guide them to the bucket and then teach them how to suck the milk out.

Learn how to bucket train a calf to make feeding time easier! It's easy and simple to do, just a few steps and your calf drinking from a bucket like a pro.

I’ll outline how to bucket train a calf here in a list so it’s a little easier to follow.

  1. Mix the normal amount of milk replacer you are feeding your calf {per feeding} and pour it in the bucket.
  2. Let the calf start to suck on your fingers, and slowly guide their head down towards the bucket.
  3. Help them realize there is milk in the bucket and that they can drink it by putting your hand down into the bucket – you may have to put your hand in the milk replacer.
  4. Leave your fingers in their mouth as they start to suck the milk out of the bucket. Gradually remove your fingers and let the calf try to drink on it’s own. If they stop, replace your fingers and help them again.
  5. Do this until the bucket is gone, it may take longer initially. Be patient!
  6. You may have to do step #4 a few times over a couple days, eventually they will realize that the milk is in the bucket, not attached to your fingers.
  7. Do not become impatient, forceful, rushed, or frustrated. If your calf really doesn’t seem to get it after 2-3 days, wait a week and try training them again. Most catch on very quickly.
  8. After they know how to drink out of the bucket, all you have to do is pour the milk replacer in the bucket and let them drink it down.

How to bucket train a calf

You’ll want to be sure you aren’t using a bucket that’s too large. It will need to be low enough for them to reach, but you don’t want it so big they will be able to step in it or get caught in it. I used this bucket for our calf but any bucket that’s about 8 quarts will work fine. I have mine hanging on a 2×4 that is part of a feeder I built into the stall where we house calves and steers. Make sure it’s secure, they will still head-butt it a little bit and you don’t want them to be able to knock it over and waste milk replacer.

How to bucket train a calf

For as many times as we fed our calf, I never took pictures of bucket feeding! I know, I’m loosing my mind. But this video does a great job of demoing what I explained here. Now you know how to bucket train a calf!

If you have any questions, ask away!

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