What happened??

Cattle problems.
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What happened??

Post by Katpau » Thu Jul 30, 2020 1:19 pm

We found a dead cow this morning, and I have no idea what happened. We have been checking the herd pretty close every day looking for pinkeye and respiratory problems. The temperatures have been in the high 90’s to low hundreds for about a week and we have what is apparently ringworm going through the whole herd, but otherwise except for the occasional pinkeye and a cough here and there, all seemed in good shape. Ringworm is something I’ve never seen in this herd before, so that is new, but cows are all in excellent flesh and there was nothing about the cow that died that concerned me yesterday morning.

She was lying near the mineral feeder, in the rushes, not far from the water tank. Her eyes were bugged out, perhaps from decomposition, and the only thing different was some puss from her rear end. I don’t know if that puss is normal after death, as I’ve rarely lost a cow. She did not appear to have struggled. Over 25 years, I can’t say there was ever one that didn’t have an explanation, such as calving problems, injury or sick for a while.

I am attaching a picture. If you click on it, and then make it bigger, you can see the creamy white discharge. Did she have some infection in her uterus, that suddenly got into her blood? Did she eat something toxic? Did she get in the mineral mix and over consume selenium? Was the calf she was carrying somehow involved. Her 2020 calf was born on March 30th and she was observed being bred by the bull on June 4th, so she was most likely about 2 ½ months along.

I’d appreciate any opinions on what you think the cause. She appeared slick fat and healthy just the day before. I’m not going to do a necropsy. She is already getting nasty in this heat. We can’t use heavy equipment, because of fire danger, so we just drug her out of that pasture for the turkey vultures to take care of.

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Re: What happened??

Post by TCRanch » Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:10 pm

Slick, fat & healthy with a calf on her side & no signs of sickness the day prior would indicate to me something spontaneous. And I know you take excellent care of your stock! Heart attack? Hot but didn't mention storms so ruling out lightning. I had a heifer that was 8 months bred - perfectly fine the day before and dead the next morning. There were coyote hunters about a mile away (as the crow flies) & I checked for blood & bullet holes but it was pointed out to me that I wouldn't necessarily see evidence without a thorough exam.

Is there any chance of old machinery in the pasture? Or a potentially toxic plant? Did you check her mouth/throat? I lost a steer that choked on a hedge apple.

That said, I have seen similar discharge.

Sorry for your loss! Just makes it worse when it's out of the blue & there doesn't seem to be a reasonable explanation.

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Re: What happened??

Post by Caustic Burno » Thu Jul 30, 2020 6:31 pm

Heart disease isn’t that rare in cattle.
Being you are experiencing hot weather for you could have stressed her.
You will never know just throwing it out there.
I run sale-barn cattle.

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Re: What happened??

Post by Katpau » Thu Jul 30, 2020 8:10 pm

My Vet looked at those photos and thought perhaps an infection of some sort in the uterus that just sort of blew up in the heat. The cows have lots of shade in that pasture and a light breeze is usually moving through the area they were in. I have been there plenty of times in the heat of the day and even though it is unbearable in the sun, it is pretty pleasant where they hang out in that location. There is a pond and a spring just above there on the neighboring ranch, so the grass is always green and it always feels much cooler, almost like natural air conditioning. It is one of the reasons we rotate into this pasture this time of year. I don't think it was the heat, but the water tank is located out in the open about a 5 minute walk away, so they do have to go back and forth to drink. She was laying out in the open near the water.

I did not look in her mouth. She probably passed the evening before and she was already getting ripe. I did not really want to touch her without gloves. I have never seen anything in that pasture I would think she could choke on or that I recognize as toxic. The Vet doubted it was anything she ate, but who knows. Cows are current on vaccinations and worming. A dead cow was the last thing I was worried about when we went down this morning. Now, in addition to worrying about calves getting sick, I'll be obsessing over the cows too.

She was 15 years old and in really good condition. She could easily pass for a cow of 7 or 8. I had planned to ship her last Fall, just based on her age, but changed my mind at the last minute. I already had a couple trailer loads with the opens, aged cows and others being shipped for cause. She was the best cow of the aged ones, so I decided to give her one more year, so I wouldn't need to make another trip. I regret that now. She was close to 1500 pounds on a 5 frame score when I ran them over the scales at the end of May. We have had more grass then I can ever remember thanks to May-June rains and all of the cows are about 100-200 pounds heavier than they have ever been. It would have been a nice check.

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Re: What happened??

Post by SBMF 2015 » Thu Jul 30, 2020 9:42 pm

Don't rule out hardware. I've had cows go from fine to dead in less than 48hours.
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Re: What happened??

Post by Katpau » Thu Jul 30, 2020 10:15 pm

I suppose she might have swallowed an old piece of barbwire or a staple. The perimeter fence was replaced about 5 years ago and there may have been some scraps of wire missed. That old wire was probably over a hundred years old and very brittle. I sometimes find small pieces. That would make me feel better since it would not be contagious or poison. Maybe we should look in her rumen.

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Re: What happened??

Post by wbvs58 » Fri Jul 31, 2020 5:49 am

Where I am with sudden death like that, Botulism is always on top of the list. If phosphorous is low they will chew on old bones they may find. Clostridium botulinum as with all clostrida produces very potent toxin that acts quickly causing paralysis and death. I have lost one when I had chicken litter dumped in the paddock, I had a fence around it but a couple pushed through. Found dead the next morning.

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Re: What happened??

Post by SBMF 2015 » Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:17 am

Katpau wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 10:15 pm
I suppose she might have swallowed an old piece of barbwire or a staple. The perimeter fence was replaced about 5 years ago and there may have been some scraps of wire missed. That old wire was probably over a hundred years old and very brittle. I sometimes find small pieces. That would make me feel better since it would not be contagious or poison. Maybe we should look in her rumen.
You say she was an older cow. The problem with hardware is that she could have ate a piece of metal several years ago. Cattle have a great ability to walk off an infection. They form a capsule around the injury, and go on to live what looks like a normal life. Until that capsule ruptures and all of that infection hits their system at once. They become toxic almost instantly.

I've started giving all our replacements magnets. It's a cheap prevention.
Never fear them, but ALWAYS respect them.

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Re: What happened??

Post by Brute 23 » Fri Jul 31, 2020 12:00 pm

Had she been wearing a mask and social distancing?
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Re: What happened??

Post by TCRanch » Fri Jul 31, 2020 5:47 pm

SBMF 2015 wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 7:17 am
Katpau wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 10:15 pm
I suppose she might have swallowed an old piece of barbwire or a staple. The perimeter fence was replaced about 5 years ago and there may have been some scraps of wire missed. That old wire was probably over a hundred years old and very brittle. I sometimes find small pieces. That would make me feel better since it would not be contagious or poison. Maybe we should look in her rumen.
You say she was an older cow. The problem with hardware is that she could have ate a piece of metal several years ago. Cattle have a great ability to walk off an infection. They form a capsule around the injury, and go on to live what looks like a normal life. Until that capsule ruptures and all of that infection hits their system at once. They become toxic almost instantly.

I've started giving all our replacements magnets. It's a cheap prevention.
I'll second that!

When we bought our ranch it hadn't been surveyed since 1879 - over 130 years. Old fence, wire, machinery, essentially anything they didn't want was buried. Eventually it has to resurface at some point in time. Plus we've been hit twice by tornadoes with debris literally over a mile. It simply isn't possible to collect all the residual metal. That said, keep in mind "hardware" is subjective and can also be caused by glass, a sharp rock, honey locust thorns - basically anything sharp they ingest.

And just for fun, this is a pic of a magnet from a cow post mortem (not mine). Cattle are indiscriminate eaters!!!
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Re: What happened??

Post by Katpau » Sat Aug 01, 2020 10:01 am

Brute 23 wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 12:00 pm
Had she been wearing a mask and social distancing?
No, she was not. Looks like I'm going to need to get on that. :shock:

I now think she died from a fast acting pneumonia. I had pulled a calf about a week ago for symptoms, so I had been carefully checking every calf, but I had only made a cursory look at the cows. Looking at my records, it had been three days since I inventoried the cows, and that was just marking off ear-tag numbers on my list. There are almost 50 cows with their calves in that pasture, and I might not have noticed she had symptoms without observing more carefully. My husband was reading off tag numbers to me, so I don't actually remember seeing her myself.

Yesterday when we went to check cows and water, all of the cows except one ran to the gate hoping to rotate into a new pasture. I checked her out and she was clearly lethargic and had snot running from her nose. We brought the whole herd about a half mile to the corrals and checked temperatures on her and a few calves that I had been watching. Her temp was 104.4, and I wiped lots of snot from her nose We gave Nuflor and Banamine and I wiped her face and body with a cool wet cloth. By the afternoon her temperature was down to 100.3, even though the air temperature was about 90. It was amazing to see the difference in attitude in just a few hours. If I get the Covid, I think I'll try Florfenicol and Banamine on myself. (Just kidding, but it does make me wonder if it would help?)

We have a cover over our working facilities which makes it feel much cooler and seems to cause a circulation of air through that makes it even better. She and her calf are there for now with a small adjoining tree shaded outdoor run. The stress of watching for more sickness is just intensifying. We had never seen a case of Pneumonia in the herd in over 20 years until we lost a calf to it two years ago. Last year was fine, but this year it is back. I vaccinate for IBR and other respiratory ailments twice a year, but apparently it is no longer enough.

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Re: What happened??

Post by 76 Bar » Sat Aug 01, 2020 10:58 am

That retrieved magnet pic should make die hard skeptics sit up and take notice.
Head scratcher Katpau. Sudden & unaccountable death is frustrating and especially in well cared for, otherwise healthy stock. That said, like Ken my first thought was Clostridium. Prior to leaving CA some of the DVM's in my locale were concerned that in spite of properly administered calf hood protocol, annual boosters for the subsequent cow herd and acquired bulls might not be sufficient i.e. they were recommending biannual vaccination. YMMV.

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Re: What happened??

Post by alisonb » Sat Aug 01, 2020 11:22 am

Would tend to go with your vet's views. Discharge from the vagina(genital tract)would indicate an infection in the uterus/cervix area...especially taking the age of calf in to account. Perhaps read up on Metritis, endometritis and pyometra, you may get an answer there. A cow may not show any signs of having an infection(health wise or discharge) and will continue eating etc and will even cycle.
Something was infected to cause that build up of pus which was expelled on death.
Sorry for your loss.
Last edited by alisonb on Sat Aug 01, 2020 12:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What happened??

Post by Katpau » Sat Aug 01, 2020 12:42 pm

I read up a little clostridial diseases and I don't think it was that, but I could sure be wrong. I may not have paid enough attention to her over the last 4 or 5 days, but I do recall watching her graze and feed her calf since we moved into that pasture about a week ago. She was eating well, the calf was doing good, and she never appeared bloated, even after death. She was laying mostly upright, like she collapsed and died fairly quickly.

I looked up Metritis, endometritis and pyometra and read a bit about infections as a result of retained placenta. I don't know if she passed the placenta or not since she calved out in the pasture. I don't remember where I first saw her with the calf, but we tag morning and evening, so the calf would have been less than 24 hours old. I looked up her record and there were no notes on anything unusual, but the calf was smaller than her average calf. It was 75 pounds while most of her calves were in the mid 80's to high 90's. Perhaps there was something going on there. You would think she would have been sick way before this, but who knows.

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Re: What happened??

Post by alisonb » Sun Aug 02, 2020 2:52 am

Katpau wrote:
Sat Aug 01, 2020 12:42 pm
I looked up Metritis, endometritis and pyometra and read a bit about infections as a result of retained placenta.
Infection is not necessarily caused by a retained placenta.

A cow showing no outward signs of infection could possibly have the uterine infection Pyometra, where the cervix closes and actually traps the infection not allowing discharge to pass while animals immune system tries to fight it.
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