Cattle – Calf Health


Calf health is an area that can often be neglected. Wed can sit down with you and come up with a plan that will maximise your calf health. Colostrum underpins all calf health and our starting point for investigation would be to ensure that the calves have received enough colostrum. With black and white cows producing more milk at the first milking the antibody concentration reduces – this means they need more volume now than they ever had. Many producers give 4 litres to all calves by stomach tube. From our experience of testing cows leaving the calf with the mother is a very variable (and often unsatisfactory) way of delivering colostrum. We can take blood and test it at the surgery and report results the same day.

Calf scour is another problem that seems on the increase. We have kits available at the practice that will let us test a few samples and identify the cause of the problem. Many of the conditions require specific treatments, most cases are not caused by bacteria and people waste a lot of antibiotic in calf scour. There are various new products available for treating scouring calves and a suitable protocol must be followed. Too many producers withdraw milk for too long and starve the calf of nutrients and increase the time taken for the gut to heel. Really sick calves may require hospitalisation for fluid therapy (NEVER STOMACH TUBE A CALF THAT CANNOT STAND). Particularly in beef herds specific vaccines can help protect against scour disease, another thing to plan well in advance.

Pneumonia is the other common disease we see in baby calves, and adequate colostrum is the best means of prevention. Adequate ventilation is vital. Vaccination plays a role but the other factors must not be neglected. There is a great number of vaccines and the plan needs tailoring to your specific circumstances, different vaccines protect different aged calves from different diseases for differing time periods!

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