Tube-feeding milk to young calves can cause D-lactic acidosis, says Don Sockett, veterinarian at the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

At a Land O’Lakes/ Purina Feeds veterinary meeting, Sockett explained that D- and L-lactate are produced in the rumen as a complication of tube-feeding, abomasal reflux or incomplete closure of the abomasal groove — and metabolic acidosis can develop. D-lactic acid inhibits brain energy metabolism and there can be a marked reduction in ATP production and neurotransmitter release. Calves exhibit a marked depression, abnormal posture and ataxia, a normal suckle reflex, often have difficulty drinking, and an abnormal (slow or absent) palpebral reflex and menace response.
Sockett says treatment of D-lactic acidosis includes:

  • Bottle feed 2 liters of warm milk or milk replacer (do not force feed).
  • Give bicarbonate and glucose containing oral electrolytes (1-2 liters TID).
  • Oral amoxicillin 3-5 days (10 mg/kg BID).
  • Give 3 to 4 liters of isotonic sodium bicarbonate IV or SubQ containing 5 percent glucose.
  • Shot of thiamine (10 mg/kg) IM.
  • Sockett says do not use lactated Ringer’s solution in calves.

Source: Bovine Veterinarian (sister publication to Dairy Herd Management)