The Elk Breeders Homepage

Raising Dorothy, a Bottle-Fed Elk Calf
Part 2: Bonding

By Patsy Davis Dyar
Mad Hatter Ranch

Of course I immediately fell in love with this little bundle of elk. How could I not! Plus it was the perfect situation, to have to raise a bottle baby. The easiest way is to start imprinting from the start. Since she could not stand there was no question she would die if left with her mother. Dorothy and I began to bond.

As I toweled her dry, I let her sniff and nuzzle me the way she would her mother. As any normal calf would act, she began trying to stand and nurse. I stayed close, doing nothing to help her but continued to rub her all over, keeping my face close. Because of the radial nerve damage, she could only get up on her knees. Once there, she tried to nurse on any available part of me!

nursery My biggest concern with a new baby is the initial bonding, so we did not rush into feeding. Dorothy and I spent at least an hour before we moved her to the "nursery" for the night and her first meal.
Once that was accomplished feeding was a cinch! Holding the bottle of colostrum close to my body, I made her find it in much the same way nature would make her work for it. The only advantage I gave was to put the milk at knee level!

It is essential that calves receive colostrum in the first few hours of their life. If they do not, they will die 100% of the time. Because of this, some ranchers choose to tube feed the first few meals to insure the proper consumption of this important food. It is my opinion that taking the time to bond with the calf is equally important. Once Dorothy had bonded to me, I had no trouble getting her to take the nipple, and she readily consumed over 40oz of colostrum in the first 12 hours.

Patsy will share her feed formula and tips about amounts and keeping notes in the next installment. Check back soon. To ask questions about calving elk or to share your experiences, join in the wapiti forum.

Part 1 | Part 3



Copyright © 2000 WAPITI.NET
Please send questions and comments to