Signs of a Compromised Newborn Calf

  • Inactivity and weakness; sleepiness
  • Slow to stand and nurse; dopey
  • Inability to maintain body temperature
  • Variable heart and respiratory rate

It is important to realize that even severely compromised calves may appear to be normal for the first 15-30 minutes after birth while the stress hormone levels are high. Once that subsides the calf will gradually become weak, unresponsive, and will be unable to maintain its body temperature.

Sick calf

Do not assume that delivery of a live calf from dystocia will result in a normal healthy calf. All dystocia calves are compromised since they have suffered a sustained physiological challenge. Dystocia calves are more prone to neonatal death, decreased colostral intake, and trauma (i.e. broken bones, nerve damage, or damage to internal organs due to severe traction). The sooner the calf resumes normal physiological processes, the stronger and more disease resistant it will be.

Many dairy producers remove the calf from the dam soon after birth. This has been shown to decrease disease transmission between the pair. Since the dam is not there to stimulate the calf, it is up to the calf caretakers to assume the role.


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