Guidelines for evaluating sick calves

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“Excellent dairy calf managers can spot diseases early and treat these calves so they have the best chances of recovering quickly,” says Donna Amaral-Phillips, Extension Dairy Specialist at the University of Kentucky.

Amaral-Phillips has developed a comprehensive document to help calf managers deliver colostrum effectively; identify sick calves quickly; assess manure consistency; evaluate vital signs and physical measurements of sick calves; determine whether or not calves need electrolytes; and prevent future sickness.

Some interesting tips from the document include:

  • A calf’s normal heart rate is twice as fast as that of an adult cow.  Normal heart rate for a calf is 100 to 140 beats per minute.  A faster or irregular heart beat is a sign of illness.
  • If a calf’s gums are dry and white, it is a symptom of severe dehydration (8-10 percent dehydrated)
  • Overfeeding of electrolytes causes little harm to calves.  However, underfeeding electrolytes can prolong scours and not correct dehydration and loss of electrolytes in scouring calves.

Access the complete guide.

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