Re: bottle calves for newbies
akburk2 wrote:milkmaid wrote:It seems as if everyone and their dog has bottle calves nowdays, and no idea how to care for them. So, I figure it’s about time to put together a post with some basic calf-raising information.
The cow’s colostrum contains important antibodies that will protect the calf from disease for the first few months of life, and so it is vital that the calf get colostrum within the first 24 hours of life. Between 0 and 24 hours the bovine gut is “open” and will absorb those antibodies. After 24 hours of life it is almost pointless to give colostrum and if the calf has not gotten colostrum yet, chances are high that keeping the calf alive will be an uphill battle for the first few months of life. Ideally the calf would get 1/2 gallon of colostrum within 2 hours after birth, and then 1/2 gallon 12 hours later.
Feeding a bottle calf for the first few times… I’ve seen people try to stand in front of the calf and simply hold the bottle out. Note that feeding a calf is not like coaxing a puppy over for a treat. The calf has no idea what the bottle is, and your job is to show him. Back the calf into a corner and either stand to the side as shown, or straddle him and stuff the bottle in his mouth. Notice the hand below the calf’s jaw to support her head.
Look for a milk replacer designed for calves that is at least 20% protein and 20% fat, and made from real milk. Some replacers are made from soy milk and are inadequate for raising a calf.
Opinions differ on whether a bottle calf must be raised on a BOTTLE or if they can be given their milk in a bucket. Some studies have shown that the action of nursing causes the milk to be sent directly to the abomasum where the milk is best digested, whereas simply drinking from a bucket results in the milk going to the (currently undeveloped) rumen. Because of this, some people choose to bottle feed calves from birth to weaning. It is worth noting, however, that dairies bucket feed all calves, and it is done with no ill effects to the calf. In fact, most dairy heifers are big enough to breed as 12-14 month olds so bucket feeding evidently didn’t stunt their growth.
Grain is essential for raising bottle calves, and they need to stay on grain until they’re at least 400-500lbs and their rumen is big enough it can hold enough grass/hay to provide them with enough nutrition for growth. If bottle calves are not properly fed they will look “potbellied” and will be smaller than they should be for their age. A bottle calf really needs 2-2.5% of their body weight in grain that is at least 14-16% protein on a daily basis. Check the labels at your local feed store and try to find a specific “calf starter” for the first few months of the calf’s life.
mild case... she's in good condition, but slightly potbellied
The calf needs to be eating at least 2% of their body weight in grain before they can be weaned – otherwise they will not be getting adequate nutrition from their feed and will become stunted and potbellied.
Opinions also differ on when to feed hay to bottle calves. Some don’t introduce hay until after weaning so that the calf will learn to eat grain, since that is what will provide the most nutritionally for the calf. Others introduce hay right away to help develop the rumen (stemmy hay is ideal for kick-starting the rumen)… IMO it is simply a matter of preference as I’ve seen it done successfully both ways.
“Scours” is the cattleman’s term for diarrhea.
It can be caused by anything from too much milk, to bacteria (ie. ecoli), to viruses (ie. rotavirus) to protozoa (ie crypto). Regardless of what caused it, the most important thing in a scours case is supportive therapy (fluids, electrolytes, etc.). Almost any antibiotic labeled for cattle is acceptable for treating scours. Preferred antibiotics are oxytetracycline 200, Spectam, sulfas (Sustain III or SMZs), terramycin, and occasionally penicillin, Baytril, Excenel… the only one I wouldn’t recommend is Nuflor, since diarrhea is a side effect of using Nuflor, and is not a good idea for a calf that’s already scouring. (Also note that while gentamicin is often effective against scours, it is also not legal for cattle use and it has an 18-24 month slaughter withdrawal. Don't use it!)
Dehydrated calf… note sunken-in eyes
Note that dehydration doesn’t become evident until the animal has lost about 6% of their body weight in fluids, and kidney failure sets in around 11-12% loss. The calf above is severely dehydrated and needs to be on IV fluids. (For that matter, any scouring, recumbent –down – calf needs to be on IV fluids.)
Fluids can be given IV, SC, or orally (the preferred method unless the calf is down and cannot get up, then one really needs to run an IV). Note that if giving fluids IV or SC, you need to get saline solution or lactated ringers from your vet – don’t try plain water! Hopefully that’s a no-brainer but I feel obligated to mention it.
IVs are easiest if the calf is placed on its side (not too hard on a recumbent calf), the area is shaved and then doused with a good dose of rubbing alcohol -- it makes the vein stand up and it's much easier to see and hit with the needle, especially on a dehydrated animal. Sometimes it's easier to find the vein if you have a syringe attached to the needle and a couple cc's of dex or a similar relatively-harmless substance in the syringe so you can pull back. Make sure your saline solution/lactated ringers are at body temperature.
Electrolytes are very important as the calf loses a LOT of them when scouring. Anything that has dextrose, sodium chloride (salt), and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) can be used. It is possible to make homemade electrolytes, but is not ideal… especially sugar or corn syrup is not easily digested in the calf and can cause more scouring. Spend the money and buy the real stuff at your feed store or vet clinic that is actually designed for calves.
I did discover something new recently; an oral solution called “Double A solution” (my vet says it can also be given IV) and contains electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. I feel it’s equivalent or better than the powder stuff the feed stores carry and I've been pleased with the results I've seen after giving it to calves.
Calf's normal rectal temperature is 102.5'F. Navel ill/joint ill... I'll add that info soon.
Vaccinations... common question. Opinions differ on this one too. Maternal antibodies from the colostrum interfere with attempts to vaccinate the calf, and its own immune system isn't in top working order yet. Generally accepted opinion is to wait until 2-3 months before vaccinating. Much sooner than that and you're really just wasting your money. Won't hurt the calf, but probably won't do a bit of good either!
Common things to vaccinate against are:
BVD types I and II, IBR, BRSV, PI3
5 strains including hardjo
7 or 8-way clostridial including blackleg
...and depending on location, often pinkeye, tetanus, and/or redwater too. Some people also vaccinate for pneumonia (pasturella, etc), footrot, neospora, scours (in calves), but those are less common vaccines. Consult with your vet about what might be needed in your area.
Brucellosis (bangs) is required in some states (heifers only!) -- check with your vet.
Remember to booster all vaccines as recommended on the label!!!
That's all for tonight... experts feel free to add to what I've already said... and I'll work on it more later.
I first want to say that you have created a really nice post. I would like to talk a little about the remarks made about colostrum in the opening paragraphs. It is true that colostrum contains antibodies that will support the newborn's immune system for the first 90-120 days of life. It is true that after a certain period of time once the "gut" is no longer open IgG (the anti-body that is the protein carrier) can no longer be absorbed, however all of the other antibodies can still be absorbed, espically IgA. IgA is absorbed through the mucosal membranes of the respiratory and G.I. tract. and is found in blood, sweat, and tears. IgA contains lactoferrin and transferrin which work together to help the immune system become established. IgG is carried in the lymphatic and circulatory systems where it helps to neutralize toxins and other unwanted invaders, but like you said the absorption is only good for the first few hours of life. I agree that if a calf doesn't recieve colostrum within the first 6 hours of birth the battle has started, because his strength(IgG ... protein) levels are way behind. I disagree that colstrum is an unusable product after the first few hours of birth because of all the other benefits that it has to offer.... immunity boost, growth factors, feed efficiency factors.. etc. What you have to realize is that the powdered products have been denatured because the have been taken out of their original state (liquid) and made into a powdered product... not as powerful.Tragus
I have been hearing talks about a product called Re-Borne that is being used within the horse industry right now. There are talks that it could move into the cattle, swine, and possibly poultry industries. It is colostrum that has been sourced from USDA certified dairies and went through a special sterilization process and the product has never been altered from the original state. So it is 100% colostrum... the real deal. It has many uses not just for newborns, but backgrounders, farrowing houses etc. I believe that it might be a great product that we will need to keep our eyes and ears open on. I will try to do some more research on this product and see what happens. If you get time check out their website...www.Re-Borne-Equine.com.
That's really awesome. thanks