Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 04-25-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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4 SPRING IN THE VALLEY 2019 APRIL 24-MAY 1, 2019 | THE VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER Photos from top: 1. CLAYTON WRIGHT gives a day-old calf a drink at Wright's Dairy Farm on April 5. 2. A day-old calf seems to be having fun with a photographer. 3. Cows enjoy lunch at Wright's Dairy Farm. 4. Cows at Wright's can be very social and don't mind a scratch or rub on the nose from a stranger. (BREEZE PHOTOS BY ROBERT EMERSON) Born on the farm New calves an important investment at Wright's Dairy Farm NORTH SMITHFIELD – Ever wonder what it's like to bottle-feed a 100-pound calf that was born just a few hours ago? The folks at Wright's Dairy Farm know. For the fifth-generation family dairy farm, raising the herd's future dairy cows to adulthood is just another part of the business. While spring is typically the time when curious visitors begin peek- ing into the dairy barns on the lookout for calves, Clayton Wright, one of the family members and business co-owners, said newborn calves can be found on the property year-round. The dairy cows, he explained, must give birth at least once a year to maintain their milk levels. While some farms operate on a seasonal schedule, Wright's pre- fers to breed its cows year-round to avoid disruptions in the milk cycle. A Holstein calf weighs between 60 and 100 pounds at birth and is typically up and walking within the hour. As newborns, the calves live in individual calf hutches close to the farm's entrance on Woonsocket Hill Road. At this stage, said Wright, the calves are susceptible to disease, and the separate pens pre- vent the spread of bacteria between them or from the fingers of curious onlookers. When they're born, each calf has a unique set of markings set- ting it apart from the others, much like a fingerprint. After a few days, they also get names to display on an ear tag. Herd Manager Jared Brong cycles through the letters of the alphabet when naming the calves, sometimes naming them for employees or their children. "Whatever's happening in his life, that's the names that the calves bear," said Ellen Puccetti, also a farm co-owner. Though the calves are separated from the rest of the herd, they receive careful attention from farm staff who check on them regularly. The calves are fed by bottle twice each day with cows' milk, and in winter, they keep warm under blue fleece calf coats. After three months, they move to a group hutch where they get their first experience social- izing with other cows and visitors. Cows, explained Wright, are social animals, a trait both good and bad for their caretakers. A full-grown Holstein cow weighs between 1,100 and 1,500 pounds, making a curious cow looking to nudge a farmer for some hay a force to be reckoned with. "They get too friendly, and when you've got a 1,100-pound animal and they want to be your friend, you're on the losing side of that friendship," he said. After the group pen, the calves move to a farm in western Massachusetts where they'll finish out their adolescence before return- ing to join the milking herd. The cows are ready to have their first calf at about 2 years old, and will By LAUREN CLEM Valley Breeze Staff Writer lauren@valleybreeze.com See CALVES, Page 6

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