Dairy calves and young replacement heifers, like all cattle, are vulnerable to a myriad of health problems, injuries and parasite infestations. However, as they say, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. The Dairy Animal Quality Assurance Manual provides the following tips for maintaining good herd health across all ages of animals:

  • Work with a veterinarian and /or nutritionist to determine the risk of infectious, metabolic and toxic diseases and to develop effective management programs when designing a herd health plan.
  • Producers and their employees should have the ability to recognize common health problems and know how to properly utilize animal health products and other control measures.
  • The use of a diagnostic laboratory to provide a definitive diagnosis is highly recommended for unusual or questionable cases.
  • Observation is a critical component for identifying health issues early and is the key to effective treatment. Problems in the herd often arise from lack of prevention. The most important tool you have is your trained eye. Most problems don’t happen overnight. Walk through the barn.  Make the cattle move. Watch how they walk. Listen. Movement can produce a cough if it is there.

Look for:

○ Reluctance to go to the bunk

○ Body Condition Score and appearance

○ Lameness

○ Crusted muzzle

○ Sunken eyes

○ Nasal discharge

○ Rough dry coat

○ Diarrhea

○ Coughing

○ Sneezing

○ Drooped head and ears

○ Arched back

○ Straining to urinate

  • If you think an animal may be sick, take its temperature.
  • If an animal dies, have a necropsy performed by your vet or the state lab, or you can be trained to do it yourself. That dead animal holds the key to avoiding lost dollars on treatments that do not solve the problem. Knowing what you have on the farm helps your veterinarian make targeted recommendations.

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