Deliver high-quality colostrum immediately after birth
Compromised calves have poor suckling and so don’t consume as much colostrum. If the calf is tubed, this problem can be avoided. But calves with poor respiratory function and low oxygen also tend to have poor gut function and appear to have less ability to absorb the immunoglobulins even if they are tubed to supply sufficient colostral volume.
Since compromised calves tend to have lower oxygen delivery to tissues, they tend to absorb immunoglobulins poorly, but often can absorb the immunoglobulins over a longer time period; so it is worth providing an extra colostrum feeding to assure the calf has the best chance of good colostral immunoglobulin transfer. “Besides that, colostrum is a great nutritional supplement, and providing a compromised calf with more nutritional support is a good idea,” Garry says.
Treat every calf that was exposed to dystocia as a compromised calf
Garry says in his dystocia study, “Perhaps some of the calves that were born alive, but died within 24 hours, could have been saved by implementing simple interventions.”
Help prevent dystocia by:
- Ensuring heifers are inseminated at the proper age and bodyweight.
- Selecting potential sires on the basis of known calving ease.
- Improving personnel training regarding proper timing and methods of intervention during calving, plus appropriate methods to care for compromised newborn calves.
TLC for the compromised calf
Good supportive care can go a long way for a compromised calf. Sheila McGuirk, DVM, PhD, says calves with difficult deliveries are high-risk calves and everything about their post-natal management is difficult. “Attentive, well-trained people who care make a difference,” McGuirk says.
Stimulation, clearing an airway, stopping navel bleeding and warming up that calf will make a difference, McGuirk notes. She suggests sitting the calf in sternal recumbency, changing body positions and towel drying. Giving oxygen by mask is also useful.
Give the calf some time. “Delay colostrum feeding for the compromised calf for four hours, but if the nose and mucous membranes don’t turn pink, have your clients call a veterinarian for assistance,” McGuirk suggests. “There is no magic medication to make calves breathe or quick tricks that turn these calves around. Keep them sitting, warm and stimulated to breathe. Give warm colostrum and get assistance if needed.”