The Elk Breeders Homepage

Raising Dorothy, a Bottle-Fed Elk Calf
Part 4: Feed

By Patsy Davis Dyar
Mad Hatter Ranch

Below is some information on the food and supplies I use.

  • Colostrum: Head Start, from Browns Feeds, Clive, Alberta. Phone # 403-784-3732
  • Lamb nipples and a 32 oz plastic bottle. (Generic spray bottle)
  • Formula from the book Farming Deer and Wapiti by Dr Haigh and Robert Hudson: 2 cans pet milk, 2 egg yolks, 2drops vitamin B complex (oral), 2 teaspoons cod liver oil. Blend, and add to 2 liters of whole milk. Shake. Measure and put bottle of formula in hot water to warm. Do not microwave.

Also suggested in the book Farming Deer and Wapiti, is the following graph with suggested amounts of formula per feeding. My own records differ considerably, perhaps because calves are bigger.

Week Feeds/day Amount per feed Total liters per day Target weight
0-1 6-8 150-500 1.2-3.0 20-25 (kg)
1-3 4-6 500-1000 3.0-4.0 25-40
3-6 4 100-1500 4.0-6.0 40-60
6-9 3 1500-2000 4.5-6.0 60-80
9-11 2 2000 4.0 80-90
12 1 2000 2.0 90+

It is said that "What comes out is just as important as what goes in!" For this reason I try to keep records of both. Here is a sample of the kind of records that I keep - week 1 in the life of Dorothy.

The second day I gradually mixed the colostrum with the formula to ease the transition between the two different foods. Things went along pretty well for the first couple of days. Both calves had good appetites and stools were excellent. Then came the "squirts"! I don't know if it was the change in food, or perhaps overeating. They were happy, eating well and very bright. Maybe diarrhea is just part of being a new body!

I diluted their formula by 50% with warm water, and gave them 15cc of Kaopectate two times a day. By the next day they were better. Not perfect, but had progressed from squirts to "pea soup". Since calves cannot eliminate waste on their own for a few weeks, I stimulate the rectum with warm water to make them go. Not only is this essential when hand rearing, it gives me a lot of important information. I in turn gave my ranch visitors way more information than they wanted with my constant reports, usually expressed in terms of food. My favorite progression being, "squirts… to pea soup… to cream of wheat… to toothpaste… to excellent!" All kidding aside, diarrhea, dehydration, and colitis have been the toughest things for me to control in the past. So far so good… Dorothy recovered quickly, and continues to gain about 1.5 lbs per day.

More coming - check back soon. To ask questions about calving elk or to share your experiences, join in the wapiti forum.

Part 3 | Part 5



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