Welcome to our interactive calf. Click on the different calf sections to find out more information about them.
Gut health of calves is vitally important to their survival as well as their performance later in life. Scour / diarrhoea and other digestive problems are responsible for a large percentage of deaths in unweaned calves, probably the largest cause of losses!
Receiving an adequate volume of good quality colostrum within the first 3 hours of life is vitally important in ensuring that calves get off to a good start and grow at the maximum possible rate.
It is important that the colostrum is of good quality i.e. has sufficient levels of antibodies to pass on immunity to the calf to help fight disease and also that the colostrum itself isn’t passing on infections from the dam to the calf.
Colostrum quality can be evaluated using a colostrometer and on-farm pasteurisation of colostrum can vastly reduce the risk of passing on infections to the calf as well as increasing the uptake of antibodies from the colostrum by the calf.
If providing enough quality colostrum is an issue, a powdered colostrum fortifier can provide a convenient solution to ensure that calves get the energy and antibodies that they need in the first hours of life.
A calf is born a non-ruminant with the digestive system set up solely to digest milk. The enzymes present are suited to digesting milk proteins and milk sugars rather than other sources of proteins and carbohydrates which may be found in some milk replacers.
The nutrients in the milk fed to calves has to provide all the energy for growth as well as building the calves immune system and fighting challenges from bacteria and if the calf gets an infection of the gut it can drastically reduce its growth and also affect it later in life. This is why most farmers tell us that calves do better off pasteurised milk than previously on powdered milk replacer or raw milk.
This means that it ensuring that the milk provided to the calf is of a high quality and is as safe as possible is vitally important.
As well as pasteurisation of colostrum, pasteurising whole milk can be an excellent way of ensuring that calves get a good supply of high quality, safe milk which will minimise disease transmission to new calves and help to protect herd health.
Another important factor in protecting gut health of calves is hygiene. This is particularly important when trying to control diseases such as Cryptosporidiosis which can be passed between animals in the faeces. This infection can be easily spread between calves if calf pens are shared or not cleaned out and disinfected between uses causing great economic loss.
By thoroughly disinfecting calf housing areas and ensuring that the best quality, safe milk is fed to calves, the chance of infection can be kept to a minimum.View Products
Head & Neck
Common problems in calves of the head region, or shown in this region are Menigitis (from low colostrum or listeriosis), Calf Diphtheria (bacterial infection), Dehydration (usually due to scours), anaemia (pale membranes due to lack of iron, bleeding, ulcerated guts, blood borne protozoa, blood sucking parasites) and pneumonia ( eye and nose discharge). Also, the presence or absence of the suck reflex is important in assessing the level of depression when calves are scouring and how aggressive treatment needs to be. If you are struggling seek advice from a trained professional.View Products
A healthy heart is vital to the overall health of calves and problems with the heart can very quickly lead to death of the calf if left untreated. Congenital defects are not un heard of either, the affected calves either pass away or struggle to thrive.
One serious problem which can lead to death of the calf is bacterial endocarditis (infection of the lining of the heart, often on the valves). This usually follows septicaemia. Treatment is usually unsuccessful. Caused often by low colostrum, navel infection ,and infection can spread from the heart to other sites including the joints. Good colostrum management, navel disinfection and hygiene of calving pens will reduce this and many other problems.
White muscle disease can also be a life threatening problem for calves and this is usually associated with deficiency of selenium or vitamin E.
There are two forms of the disease, congenital and a delayed form. With congenital white muscle disease, calves usually die within 2-3 days of birth due to degeneration of the heart muscle. With the delayed form of the disease, affected calves may show problems such as ill thrift and stiffness. These calves may also die suddenly from heart failure. It is diagnosed by blood samples and post-mortem examination.
Treatment of the problem involves injecting selenium and vitamin E to the affected calf.
Prevention is the most cost effective and safest option and this can be done by ensuring that cows have adequate levels of selenium and vitamin E prior to calving and if necessary, giving additional selenium and vitamin E to calves to prevent the delayed form of the disease. One very effective way to do this is with an oral drench.
Traumatic pericarditis or "Wire" occurs once they start to ruminate it they manage to eat metal wire. General tidyness, waryness of tyre wire and use of Rumen magnets help prevent this problem. The wire perforates the wall of the second stomach (reticulum) and this migrates into the pericardial sac around the heard. Not surprisingly an infection of this area greatly hinders heart function.View Products
Legs & Feet
Calves can be born rarely with deformed legs, or even extra legs!.More commonly, problems are due to injury or infection. e.g. navel ill and then joint ill from circulating bacteria. Again, prevention is all down to increasing resistance to disease (colostrum management) and reducing exposure to bugs (navel disinfection and disinfection of the environment and plenty of clean bedding. If struggling seek veterinary advice. Muscles can stiffen up due to White Muscle Disease caused by deficiency of Vitamin E & Selenium. Vitamin E & Selenium can be supplemented to the pregnant cow byusing our BoviPower Drench
The lungs of a calf supply the body with oxygen required for healthy metabolism and remove the carbon dioxide produced. It has been shown that many young calves are anaemic, so making pneumonia infection much more dangerous.
Maintaining health lungs is vitally important as infections can hold a calf back drastically and have a big economic impact.
Respiratory disease is estimated to cost the UK cattle industry around £60 million per year with financial losses due to mortality, antibiotic treatments and also weight loss during illness.
The cause of Pneumonia in calves is multifactorial and therefore bacteria, viruses, nutrition, husbandry and management practices all play a part in outbreaks. The best and most cost effective way to deal with pneumonia is to prevent it.
Pneumonia prevention is best prevented through a combination of good colostrum management, appropriate building design and ventilation and an effective vaccination strategy.
In dairy calves healthy muscle growth is important to the overall health of the calf, and in beef calves this is even more important as it is the muscle that contributes to the carcass yield and therefore the profit made from the animal.
Muscle issues in calves can include white muscle disease. This causes calves to show ill-thrift and stiffness and in some cases it can lead to death. The muscle lesions associated with white muscle disease are usually bilaterally symmetrical and can affect one or more muscle groups. The muscle will have white striations and feel dry and chalky (at post-mortem examination!) due to abnormal calcium deposits.
It is caused by deficiency of selenium or vitamin E and treatment usually involves injecting the affected calf with a both selenium and vitamin E.
To prevent the problem ensure that cows have adequate levels of selenium and vitamin E prior to calving and if necessary, give additional selenium and vitamin E to calves to prevent the delayed form of the disease. One very effective way to do this is with an oral drench.
Another issue to do with muscle in calves is double-muscling. This is the result of several mutations in the myostatin gene, which is responsible for regulating the growth of muscle fibres during development. When this happens, muscle fibres increase in both size and numbers resulting in the double muscled appearance.
In some breeds, this is a desirable trait due to the increased carcass yield, however it can cause problems such as decreased fertility and the vastly increased likelihood of calves needing to be delivered by caesarean due to the increased size of the calf.
As this is a genetic trait, selective breeding is the best way to manage this trait out of the herd.
The skin is vitally important to the health of a calf and it is the primary barrier to infections and also the outside elements.
As well as protecting the calf from infections entering the body, there are also a large number of ailments which can affect the skin itself.
These include parasitic infections as well as viral and bacterial infections. The commonest conditions of calves in the UK are Ringworm (fungal) and Lice. Disinfectants will reduce the fungi in the environment, our TK Swordsman is very effective at this . Certain pour-ons can be used to kill lice (Ectofly, Noromectin, Closamectin). Some breeds appear more sensitive to ringworm and lice.
Risk of infection with skin disease can be reduced by reducing stocking density and ensuring that there are no sharp protruding objects can help to reduce the chance of infection.
As well as providing protection from infections, the skin is also the first barrier to the cold for the calf. Heat escapes from the surface of the calf through the skin and calves have a much greater surface area to body weight ratio than larger cows meaning that they lose body heat much quicker than cows. Also dairy breed and continental breed calves have thinner skins than native breeds.
In relatively cold conditions, this can lead to calves spending a large amount of energy simply keeping warm. This energy comes from the feed it takes in and if energy is being used to maintain body temperature, it isn’t being used for growth.
When costs to feed calves are high, ensuring that as much of the energy in the feed is used for growth can have a great financial impact. Reducing the amount of heat loss through the skin can be reduced through use of cal coats. These insulated and waterproof jackets ensure that the calf only needs to use the minimum amount of energy to keep warm, leaving more energy available for other things, such as growth. We used to make and sell calf coats, but do not do any more, despite farmers saying that they were the best ones. The problem was that the market became swamped with poorer coats and thehese became a give away item. If I reared calves on buckets, the I would definately use calf coats in winter. the difference is like night & day!
Calves may be born rarely with defects of the urinary tract, such as tubes not connected, wierd kidneys and urine exiting the navel (patent urachus).
A dangerous problem is stones / calculi/ "gravel"; basically build up of minerals creating crystals and stones that block the penis, often resulting in firstly discomfort, followed by urethral or bladder rupture. The abdomen fills with urine and creates what is known as "Water Belly" This usually affects steers, however it can also affect bull calves as well. When this happens, the calf will almost always die from uraemia and toxicity. There is a salvage operation called a a Perineal Urethrotomy which I (Graham Shepherd) have done in some calves and lambs, but it is less sucessful / pointless once the bladder is ruptured.
It is considered to be a nutritional disease and specifically it is related to mineral nutrition. Usually it is a combination of: Calcium:Phos imbalance, excess Magnesium & reduced drinking. To prevent "gravel" , keep water clean and ad-lib, increase water throughput with salt in diet, minerals or rock-salt. Also compounders can include urinary acidifiers(Ammonium Chloride) in feed to reduce the risk of urinary stones.
At G Shepherd Animal Health we offer a number of products to help balance minerals and trace elements.