SACB Method: (pronounced ‘sawb’) a simple and easy way to graft calves. Everyone and their dog has a sure fire method for grafting a twin or orphan calf.
However, each method takes time and patience. These are things I don’t normally have during calving. Further, the very fact that an animal has to be handled individually, means that the procedure is not scalable. Scalable means a procedure can be replicated without increased labor. If something is scalable, you can grow your business in that direction and still remain a low-cost producer. That being said, there can be significant gain achieved by successfully grafting a calf onto another cow.
When we first started keeping custom grazing cows year-round, bottle babies were a bane to my existence. Twice a day someone had to prepare bottles and stand there waiting for all the calves to finish. EVERYDAY! TWICE OR THRICE A DAY! That was not my idea of fun. To get rid of a bottle baby, we had to wait for a cow to have a stillborn or lose her calf which started another adventure of time wasting and patience!
One day I heard about a drug called Atravet. Atravet is a sedative in powder form that can be added to grain and fed to a cow. Fifteen minutes after consuming the grain, the cow will have a nice buzz and allow the calf to nurse without any fuss. Normally two to three sessions were all it took for the cow to take the calf as her own. We used the Atravet method for several years until we moved away from custom cows to grazing yearlings.
When I went back to calving cows, Atravet in powder form was no longer available. Let me tell you, there was one unhappy cowboy riding the range! My idea of fun was not spending two to three hours skinning a dead calf, tying the hide onto a live calf, then trying to get a cow to stand while the calf nursed. There had to be another way. That other way presented itself though keen observation – some might call laziness – which eventually became the SACB Method.
During calving season I check the herd on horseback three to four times a day. Any twin or abandoned calf is roped, tied, put in the calf sled, and taken back to the corrals. These calves are then started on a bottle. When a cow has a stillborn, she is immediately trailed to the corral. The cow is put in the headgate and a bottle baby is brought to the cow. Getting down to calf level, I try to get the calf to nurse. If the cow starts kicking, things are made very uncomfortable for the cow until she stops kicking. Once the cow learns not to kick and the calf is nursing, the first steps of the SACB Method are complete.