Holstein cows are famous for their black and white and sometimes red and white spots. Their spots look amazing but they also perform an important function. They act like a fingerprint. Each set of spots is unique and they help the cows indentify each other. However, we sometimes have a calf that is born mostly black or mostly white. This can cause confusion because there is no way for the other cattle to identify them as Holsteins. These solid coloured calves also known as “Blanks” are often shunned from the herd. They are bullied and pushed away from feed bunks and water troughs. It breaks my heart.
Thankfully there is a solution. I’ve made some laminated reusable spots. I have a set of white ones for calves that are born mostly black and a set of black ones for calves born mostly white. Heavy duty Velcro attached to the back of the spots holds them in place. I introduce the calves with the artificial spots to the rest of the herd. Surprisingly, it’s takes only 12-24 hours for them to be fully accepted into the herd’s social hierarchy. Once I am sure that they are accepted I take away one spot at a time over a period of days. Eventually, the herd adapts to the missing spots and the calf is finally accepted without the spots.
The internet is full of misinformation. As a dairy farmer I feel that I need to speak up and tell my story and share the truth – EXCEPT ON APRIL FOOL’S DAY!!!! Did I fool you? Some of you probably thought that I went off the deep end. 😜 Well, let that be a lesson to you. Never believe everything that you read on the internet. If you want accurate information about agriculture then talk to a farmer but you might want to avoid talking to them on April 1st. 😉
Here’s a link to Vanilla’s real story: Vanilla is born
Some other reasons that cows have spots: Cow spots
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