Dr. Rosslyn Biggs with Considerations for Newborn Calf HealthWed, 17 Mar 2021 09:15:49 CDT
Close monitoring of newborn calves is critical as they have a more limited ability to compensate for stress, illness and changes in their environment. Following delivery, the goal is to see the calf up and nursing as soon as possible. Calves should continue to be watched carefully throughout the early weeks of their life.
All calves should be watched for signs of pain or illness especially failure to nurse, difficulty breathing, diarrhea and dehydration. Calves that resulted from a difficult or assisted calving are particularly at risk, and in many instances may benefit from pain management therapies. Intervention to correct problems should occur quickly as newborns can rapidly decline.
Delays in a calf receiving colostrum have both short and long-term impact on health. Colostrum delivery within the first four hours of life is critical. Every effort should be made to milk the cow as it is always best for colostrum to be obtained from the calf’s dam. Other colostrum options may include frozen from another cow on the operation or commercially prepared replacers if the cow cannot be milked.
Both cold and hot weather may impact a calf’s ability to thermoregulate. Calves born in extreme cold quickly utilize all body fat reserves, putting them at risk. Exposure to wind can exacerbate cold temperatures. Summer time heat can also impact a calf as they have limited to no mechanism to cool themselves. Always assess body temperature if a calf appears stressed in any way. Inexpensive digital thermometers should be included in all calf kits.
Calves should also be monitored in the first weeks for diarrhea especially those cases caused by viruses. Diarrhea can quickly dehydrate a calf leading to metabolic imbalances that can be life threatening. Additionally, fluid therapy to correct dehydration should be carefully selected and delivered to correct metabolic issues while still maintaining nutrition.
Working with your veterinarian to develop protocols before calving season can reduce stress and lead to more successful outcomes. Your veterinarian can guide and train you and your team on how and when to call for assistance.
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