Miracle Highland Calf Surprises Zoo Staff

Premature Highland Calf gets an early start to his would-have-been-birthday by 8 weeks!

Northumberland Zoo have had their hearts stolen by a premature highland cattle calf who was born at least 8 weeks premature on April 27th, 2022. The Zoo, home to many exotic species including Snow Leopards, were taken by surprise with the arrival of a domestic cow with bundles of energy and a strong will to survive. Due to his tiny size and delicate nature, Dozer had to be hand-reared by staff from Day 1 to ensure his survival.

The Zoo want to celebrate his should-have-been-birthday on the 24th June when he will have just passed 8 weeks old.

Zoo Curator, Maxine Bradley states “This is not something that we would normally celebrate, however, Dozer is not a normal calf and he has truly surprised everyone, including our vets, Robson & Prescott’s, who have been shocked by his survival since day one.”

Sam Prescott of Robson & Prescott’s Veterinary Surgery stated, “A typical calf to a highland cow is born after a gestation of 280 days and weighs about 30-32kg. The miraculous little bull calf at the Zoo was born after a gestation of no more than 227 days and weighing only 8kg. That such a calf should be born alive so prematurely is incredible and certainly not something the vets in our practice have ever experienced.”

Maxine Bradley added “It has been an incredibly tricky and difficult rollercoaster for us as we explored the unknown territories of premature calves. There is practically no information available for calves born this early, so every day brought a new challenge. We just can’t believe he is still with us and we are grateful to our vets for their help throughout this time.”

“We were happy to keep going with him as he had so much will to live, if he kept trying, we did too. Some days were so difficult and we thought we were going to lose him and the next day he would be up and running around, he kept us on our toes!” said Lucy Edwards, Head Keeper.

The calf spent many nights travelling home with the keepers, as he needed frequent feeds throughout the night and he needed to be kept warm as he was not able to thermo-regulate and keep himself warm – a process which would usually be present in a newborn calf.

The Zoo also had to come up with an alternative size of teat for his milk bottle as his mouth was simply not big enough to fit around the normal calf-sized teats that are readily available.

Calves that are more than 3 weeks premature are usually not considered to be viable and do not normally survive more than 1-2 days due to their lack of development.

Sam Prescott added, “Predictably the little calf was reliant on a number of veterinary interventions in his first 3 weeks of life to help mature his lungs, support his hydration & nutrition, treat infections and help correct a life-threatening drop in his blood pH. It has been, however, the intensive night and day care and attention by the besotted staff at the zoo that have given this incredible little calf a fighting chance of survival.”

The Zoo welcome any visitors who would like to meet him on the 24th June and celebrate his should-have-been-birthday. Dozer has been kept off-show due to his intensive care and he will live on-show with the other cattle once he has grown and he can live independently.

The Zoo affectionately named him ‘Dozer’ as he has been incredibly strong since day 1, bull-dozing into staffs’ legs. The Zoo also believes that he was blind for the first 10 days of his life as his eyesight had not fully developed.

Both Lucy Edwards & Maxine Bradley will be looking at publishing all of the data collected during his first 8 weeks in order to aid in the hand-rearing of any other calves who may be born this early.

Dozer will make an appearance on June 24th from 11am to meet visitors and press. Due to his young age, he is still being kept off-show until he is strong enough to live with the rest of the farm animals.

Watch his journey from Day 1 on our Zoo Youtube Channel in a 3-part miniseries!