Specific Monitoring Points

In human medicine, neonates are scored on the following:

  • Heart rate
  • Respiratory effort
  • Muscle tone
  • Reflex irritability
  • Color

    All of the above are given a score of 0,1 or 2 then the scores of each are added together to give the final score (Apgar score). The higher the score the better. They have found that the score correlates highly with survival rate.
    The same can be done with calves in order to determine if extra care may be indicated. You may not be able to use the same monitoring points as in humans, however you can look at calf vigor (is it active or not), time to stand, time to nurse, and body temperature maintenance within the first hour.

Normal -

  • Heart rate - In a normal calf, the heart rate should be 180 to 200 beats per minute. Lower heart rates suggest that there is a problem with the calf.
  • Breathing - The calf should breath spontaneously immediately after birth (most should start to breath after delivery of the head and chest).
  • Calf vigor - The calf should be actively moving around. You should notice a head righting reflex immediately after birth. It should sit upright (sternal recumbency) within 15 minutes of birth, unless you have placed the calf in this position before then.
  • Time to stand - within one hour of birth.
  • Time to nurse (or suckle from a bottle) - within the first 2 hours of birth.
  • Body temperature maintenance - The calf's temperature will be about 2 degrees higher than that of the dam at birth. In the next 15-30 minutes the calf's temperature will drop to about 101 to 102 degrees. This temperature should be maintained.

If any of the above are not normal, the calf may not be adapting well. It is important that the caretaker recognizes these signs and gives supportive care to the calf.
A little warmth, food, and movement will go a long way in helping the calf adapt.


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