Health care practices: Planning and observation are key

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Editor's Note: This DCHA Tip of the Week is brought to you by the Beef Checkoff.

Here are some tips from the Dairy Beef Quality Assurance manual to help prevent disease and keep your calves healthy.

First, design a herd health plan with your veterinarian and/or nutritionist. These experts can help you determine your calves' risk level for infectious, metabolic and toxic diseases and develop effective management programs.

Observation is a critical component for identifying health issues early and is the key to effective treatment. You and your employees should be able to recognize common health problems and know how to properly use animal health products and other control measures. Health problems often occur due to lack of prevention. The most important tool you have is your trained eye. Often illnesses don't happen overnight. 

Walk through the barn. Make the calves move. Watch how they walk. Listen. Movement can produce a cough, and if it's there look for:

  • Reluctance to go to the bunk
  • Body Condition Score/appearance
  • Lameness
  • Crusted muzzle
  • Sunken eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Rough, dry coat
  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing, sneezing
  • Drooped head and ears
  • Arched back
  • Straining to urinate

Knowing what you have on the farm helps your veterinarian make targeted recommendations and, ultimately, keeps your calves healthy and performing. 

To learn more visit

Source: Dairy Calf & Heifer Association

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