Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pneumonia in Calves

Highland Calf  Rome
It is a multi factorial disease as it involves infectious agents, environmental and management factors.
Many of the infectious agents are found on healthy calves but they don't lead to an outbreak of pneumonia.
But if the resistance of the calf is compromised these infectious agents can lead to pneumonia in calves.

Lungworm is in some cases  the cause of pneumonia in calves.

It usually occurs in young housed calves. It is more common in dairy calves than beef calves.

There are two types of disease acute and chronic.

The average age of infection is one month to five months.
Around 20% of the calves that are infected with pneumonia and get treatment die.

The calf is born with an immune system but its a weak one. The calf is delicate and prone to illness if the conditions are favorable.
Other sick cows and older calf's can infect the newborn calf.
Calf to calf contact can lead to infection.

Overstay in the calving area is not advisable.

Prolonged exposure to adult cattle should be avoided.

Over crowding and the continuous use of housing will increase the spread of the pathogens that lead to infection.

The breed of the calf will affect its susceptibility to pneumonia.

The amount and quality of the colostrum and the absorption when newborn will alter the calves immunity to the disease.
The incomplete transfer of immunity from the colostrum is a major problem.
Colostrum absorption may be compromised in calves born at an abnormal gestational length, difficult deliveries, born in extreme heat/cold, respiratory problems or a  twin birth.

Immunity is impaired from inadequate caloric intake.
The cows milk may have inappropriate volume, concentration fat and protein content.

Mixing feeding temperature of milk or milk re-placer can compromise the immunity of the calve.

Low quality milk replacer is a risk.

Lack of fresh water and calf starter reduces calves immunity.

Your hygiene practices with your calves is important.
Don't mix the utensils used on sick calves with those of healthy calves.
Ensure that the feeders for calves are clean.

Weaning off milk or milk re placer is a high risk time for infection.

Calves should be kept in groups no larger than 10 and should be of the same age.

 Environmental factors affect the calves immunity, such as the ventilation of the housing, under bedding, too warm, damp, drafts on the calves and the humidity.
Noxious gases, mould and dust in the air increase the probability of the calf falling ill with pneumonia.

Stress on the calf will also increase the probability of the calf contracting pneumonia such as mixing groups, movement, bad farm husbandry and low standard housing.

Stress on a calf is change on a calf.

The calf will suffer if there are irregular feeding times.

Housing changes , the movements between the maternity pens, the warming area, the calf hutch, the group pen or a location transfer potentially bring stress onto the calf.

Vaccinations, tagging, medications, castrations bring stress onto the calf.

One can say that the calf has a delicate composition.

Signs of Pneumonia

You should be checking the calves when they are resting and when they are feeding at least twice a day.
Early diagnosis is essential for successful treatment.
You should contact your vet as soon as you notice signs of pneumonia. The calf must receive the correct antibiotic in order to survive.

The first signs of infection are


Reduced feed intake

Hollow sides


Isolate themselves from other cattle calves etc

Mattered eyes

Extended head

Eating and drinking slower than usual

Droopy ears

Increased respiratory rate

Rectal temperature of 39C or above

Rattling sound when breathing



Watery discharge from nose and eyes

Later signs are

Laying down with their heads forward

Pus like nasal discharge

Watery diarrhea with blood in it

Severe laboured breathing

Prompt intervention will reduce the likelihood of permanent lung damage which would cause reduced growth and more health problems.

Treatment Of Pneumonia

Contact your vet when you suspect a pneumonia outbreak.
The vet will take a nasal swab or perform a lung wash. A blood test can also be done but it takes longer to diagnose.

Testing is important as it will tell you weather it is a bacterial or viral infection and the best treatment can be put forward at this stage.
It will also let you know if it was caused by lungworm.

Prevention is better than cure.
If you perform good animal husbandry then your risk of an outbreak is vastly reduced.

The sick calf should be isolated from the others.

If you have a bacterial outbreak of pneumonia antibiotic treatment and anti inflammatory are required. Ensure that you use the correct dosage of antibiotic and use it for the time suggested by your vet.
If the antibiotics are not administered correctly there is a risk that the bacteria will become resistant to further treatment.
Injectable antibiotics are recommended over oral antibiotics as the sick calf will have a reduced appetite and will not receive the correct dosage of antibiotics. Which in turn will lead to the bacteria becoming resistant to further treatment.
If the calf is not treated for long enough with antibiotics the remaining bacteria will regrow and the calf may relapse with recurrent bouts of pneumonia.

Supportive care is just as important as antibiotic care.
Sick calves should be given high quality hay, grain and fresh water.
Grass and rye are also a good option as a sick calf will often eat these when they won't eat anything else.

Regular changing of bedding is needed. 

One could provide a vitamin B-complex supplement.
Probiotics can be administered.

Access to sunlight and fresh air will benefit the sick calf.

In more severe cases iv fluids should be used.

For treatment of the high fever rubbing the calves bellies and backs with rubbing alcohol  helps them rapidly release body heat.

There is also an antibiotic for in contact calves.

Dehydration often comes with pneumonia so you may need to tube feed the calf with water and electrolytes to rehydrate the calf

Aberdeen Angus Calf Galway

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cow Quote

Cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures;
None show more passionate tenderness to their young when deprived of them;
And ,in short, I am not ashamed to profess  deep love for these quiet creatures.
{Thomas De Quincey}

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Calf Scour

Calf scour is a custard like feces. It can appear white, yellow, gray or have blood stains. There are three main causes of calf scour. Parasites which are the most common include crytosporidia and coccidia. Viruses which are a less common cause of scour include coronavirus and rotavirus. It is rare but bacteria can also cause scour in calves such as e-coli and salmonella.

It is the main threat to the life of a calf between the ages of 2 days and 4 weeks.

You should contact your vet if the calves eyes are very sunken, if it is too weak to stand, if it refuses to drink milk and if it has a high temperature or a low temperature.

Do not remove the milk from the calf it does not speed up recovery and could lead to starvation.

Feeding the calf the electrolyte sollution is the most vital treatment.

Antibiotics should be given if the calf is very ill and has a high temperature.

You need to have good hygeine when dealing with sick calves as humans can be infected with crytoporidia and salmonella. You may need to rehydrate the calf with an electrolyte sollution using a stomach tube if the calf is very ill.

Treating a calf with scour.
  •  Remove the calf from the group which will reduce the chances of the other calves getting infected and the sick calf getting reinfected. It greatly increases the chance of survival of the calf.
  • Give the calf oral rehydrating sollutions , the calf becomes severly dehydrated when it is suffering from scour. The calf must be rehydrated to replace the fluids and salts lost due to the scour. The electrolyte tablets are very important. If you give the oral rehydrating sollutions as soon as the calf starts scouring it has a better chance of survival.
  • The calf must continue to drink the milk if the milk is removed from the calf they can lose condition quickly, development is slowed down and they can die quickly.
  • With moderate scour 2 liters of electrolyte sollution 3 times a day is recommended.

Prevention is better than cure

Good farm management is needed in order to prevent an outbreak of scour in your calves.
Good hygiene is of utmost importance. Even if the calf has had a good amount of collostrum it can still get infected with scour due to unhygenic conditions.

  • Clean dry bedding is vital for where your calf is being housed.
  • The pens must be cleaned out between calves.
  • Dont get lazy. Keep the conditions for the calves and cows perfect thoughout the season.
  • Keep the calving equipment clean.
  • Be generous with the naval dip when the calf is born.
The calf must have an adequate intake of colostrum.  It is vital for calves to ward off infection. Recent research has shown that many cases of calf scour can be directly related to the lack of colostrum intake at birth. The more colostrum taken by the calf in the first few hours of life increases its levels of antibodies.

A sick calf will have a dull apperance,  its feces will smell terrible and it will have a high temperature.

When the temperature of a sick calf drops below 38 degrees celcius the calf is suffering from shock and dehydration. When the calf gets hyperthermia at 37 degrees it will need to be put under a heat lamp. The vet will usually need apply an intravenous drip or subrtavenous drip to the calf when they are in this difficult state.

The younger the calf the greater its chances of death from scour.

It can be nutritonal or infectious. The nutritional scour is caused by the over consumption of milk or the sudden change in milk or diet composition and it can lead to dehydration. The nutritional scours is not as deadly as the infectious scour. Sometimes nutritional scour can lead to infectious scour.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Calf Colostrum

Colostrum is vital for the newborn calves health and well being. The calf's immune system is not fully developed when born. It is not fully developed until it is one to two months old. Colostrum contains antibodies and immunoglobulins necessary for protection against disease. Colostrum is the first milk the cow produces post birth of the calf. It is full of essential nutrients and antibodies which are not present in the milk produced later on. A calf should receive at least two litres of colostrum within the first two hours of life. A further two litres should be given four hours later with a big calf getting three litres. Colostrum can only be absorbed by the calf's stomach wall during the first 24 hours of life. After this time the antibodies cannot be absorbed but the calf continues feeding on the colostrum.
Dairy cows tend to have a lower class colostrum than beef cows as large colostrum volumes tend to have a lower volume of antibody concentration. Older cows also tend to have a higher class of colostrum than first and second time birthers.

To ensure that the calf gets a vital amount of colostrum the four teats of the cow should be drawn and put into a bucket with a teat on it. Calves are born with a strong suck and should have it drunk in 5 minutes. Some weak calves will not suck so the will have to be fed by stomach tube.
Inadequate colostrum results in diarrhea in calves and high mortality rates. A calf should receive 5 to 6% of its body weight in colostrum in the first 6 hours of life and another 5 to 6% of its body weight of colostrum when the calf is 12 hours old.

Studies have shown that at 6 hours after birth calves absorbed 66% of the immunoglobulins from the colostrum but at 36 hours after birth they were only able to absorb 7% of the immunoglobulins.
Calves that have endured prolonged calving may be too weak to suckle off the mother and may have to be given commercial colostrum which is not as good as the cows colostrum but will improve the calf's chance of survival compared to going without. It is best to milk the cows colostrum and tube feed the calf when the calf is too weak to stand and suckle.
Colostrum can be collected and stored for use at a later date. It should be collected from cows within 24 hours of calving. Store it in zip lock bags for convenience and each bag should have an ideal serving quantity. Do not thaw and refreeze. Colostrum can be stored in a freezer for up to one year. The colostrum should be thawed slowly in warm water. It should be warmed to 40°C.

Its best to use colostrum from your own herd for disease control.Mixing colostrum from a group of cows to feed different calves can cause the spread of Johnes disease.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Calving Kit

new born calf just arrived getting licked by cow
  •  Long plastic gloves-these will protect you and the cow during examinations
  • Medicine kit
  • Bucket of warm water
  • Clean towels and paper towels
  • A restraining device such as a halter
  • Lubricant
  • Disinfectant
  • Calving chains
  • String or dental floss
  • Calving jack and snare
  • Iodine
  • Scissors
  • Syringes-3cc, 6cc, 12cc, 35cc
  • Needles 18x1''for calf 18x1.5''for cow
  • Colostrum in case the cow has a problem have a frozen supply or powder form.
  • Calf bottle and teat and a feeding tube
new born calf geting licked by cow

new born calf becoming aware of surroundings

new born calf first attempt of standing up

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Care Of New Born Calf



  • The calf should be born in a clean, dry secure place
  • All sick animals should be isolated from where the cows are birthing
  • Pathogens from the urine. feces and spoiled feed can lead to diseases in calf
  • Even if the calf has had plenty of high standard colostrum they can still get sick from unsanitary environment
  • Utensils used in feeding should be kept clean


The calf must get colostrum within the first few hours of life.
The calves first feed will be the colostrum form the Mother.
Colostrum intake is crucial to ensure the survival of young calves.
Much of the mortality in calves can be linked to improper colostrum management by farmers.
Colostrum is the milk the cow produces during the first few days of the calves life.The calf needs this colostrum for the essential nutrients it is high in energy, protein, vitamins and minerals. It has proteins and peptides that have great biological purposes. Most importantly it has immunoglobulins which transfers passive immunity to the calf to fight infection. 

If the calf has had a prolonged and difficult birth and is too weak or tired to suck you should milk the cow and feed the calf with a stomach tube the colostrum. Try if possible to get the calf to drink from a calf bottle if you are nervous using the stomach tube.

If the cow has no milk or you are dealing with an orphan there is  powder colostrum that you can buy from the farm shop.


Naval Care

The naval of the calf should be trimmed and dipped or sprayed with iodine.This naval spray will disinfect the naval and ward of infections.It will also dry out the naval.If the naval has not dried after a few hours reapply the naval spray/dip.

When the newborn calf is born ensure that he is breathing well and that there is no afterbirth complicating its breathing. You can tickle its nose with straw to remove any mucus.

If it has been a difficult birth or the cow is not able to lick the calf you can dry the calf with a towel.Vigorous drying around the shoulder and neck encourages breathing and regulation of body temperature

You should ensure that the calf is able to suckle of the cow before you leave for best farm management.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Things You Will Need To Raise Orphan Calf

  • Warm, safe and secure area for the calf to sleep
  • Colostrum powder for calves
  • Calf milk replacer
  • Calf feeding bottle this is alot larger than a lamb bottle
  • Plenty of straw for the calf to sleep on, calves can get sick from  the cold easily
  • Shade from the strong sun
  • Access to clean fresh water
  • Good quality calf feed