Perfect Bottle Calf Bottles

Reader Contribution by Jacqueline Wilt, R.N. and C.E.M.T.
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I have found (in my opinion) the PERFECT bottles for feeding bottle calves! I recently added a couple of bottle calves to my farm menagerie.  I’ve never raised calves, so this has been a learning experience for me. The internet has offered lots of great advice, but one issue I ran into was finding a good bottle.

At first, I just purchased the simple bottles found at farm supply stores everywhere. You know the ones … opaque white with burnt orange colored nipples at the top. There are two basic types, one with a nipple that just pulls on over the top of the bottle and one that the nipple is fastened with a screw on lid. I purchased two of the latter. They were inexpensive, which made me happy, of course.

However, one morning one of my calves pulled the top right off the bottle! I ended up with milk down my leg and pooling into my boots. I thought I must have mis-threaded the lid, so next time I was very careful to make sure the lid was on securely. I had the same result. I had to hold the tops on with one hand and hold the bottle with the other. Even then it was hard to keep the lids on. I tried switching lids and bottles, increasing the size of the nipple opening, making sure they were tight, everything I could think of, but to no avail. After taking a bath in milk replacer a few times, I was ready to try something else.

The farm store had milk pails for calves with nipples, so I tried those. Again, they failed miserably. They were difficult to handle, the calves had trouble sucking from the stiff nipples they came with, and when they butted the pails out of frustration, the milk flew everywhere. Now what?

I searched the internet for different types of bottles. I had seen one with a handle on it, but had passed on purchasing it earlier because it was more than I wanted to spend. Now, I took a closer look at it and decided to give it a try.

Let’s just say I’m in LOVE with these bottles! They are made by a New Zealand company called Shoof International. The bottles are called Speedy Feeders. They are 2.5 quart capacity and have sturdy screw on lids. The nipples are high quality Peach Teat brand nipples. They have molded handles, making it much easier to feed two calves at once! But the BEST feature of these bottles is the air valve.

The air valve is a toggle switch conveniently located within thumb’s reach just above the handle. Mine has three “speeds,” slow (0), medium (1) and fast (2). Switching this lever allows air into the bottle, which in turn allows the milk to flow easier. This also prevents the bottle from collapsing and lessens frustration on the calf’s part when they cannot get the milk to flow from a vacuum locked bottle.

I have found it works best to let the calves suck on the bottles for a few seconds before opening a valve. The milk can leak from the little vent hole, sending an arching sprinkle of milk all over the calves! Another thing I love about these bottles is the large opening. This has made it much easier to fill and clean the bottles. 

For negatives about this bottle, there aren’t very many. The bottles are a bit difficult to keep clean because of the molded handle. I have a bottle brush, but it falls short in getting all of the curved areas clean without some real trial and error. Also, the nipples are difficult to clean. I have just been rinsing them with hot water and squeezing the nipple to expel the water to clean them. I have not found an easy way to remove and clean the nipples from the lids. 

What bottle calf feeding equipment have you tried that has worked well? I’d love to hear about it!

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