Medicating a calf : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I'm hoping you might have some advice for me. We have a two week old Holstein bull-calf we got from a dairy that is not thriving. He weighs about 50 lbs. He seldom stands up on his own. His stools are loose, but not totally liquid as the scours we've seen previously. (Thus we doubt this is scours.) He hardly drinks on his own and is being increasingly tube-fed.

We are pretty new to raising calves, and prefer not medicating at all, but have lost more than half the 19 calves we've picked up over the last couple of months. We are tired of losing calves and really want to learn how to succeed at this.

We gave five days of Excenel injections (1.5 CC's daily) and Terramycin pills from Sunday to Thursday this week. We are wondering if we should give more of either of these.

Also, we have Microcillin on hand. Would you recommend giving this? If so, how much?

Would you think there might be any benefit to putting the calf with our holstein milk cow to see if she will nurse him?

-- Jonathan Lindvall (, January 27, 2001


That is a high mortality rate. Did the calves you bought receive colostrum? I would treat your calf for scours anyhow...even though it isn't real runny. Unfortunately my experience has been that if you have a weak calf that doesn't show much interest in life and won't get up that he isn't going to make it. I doubt he would nurse from your cow and I would hesitate to put a sickly calf on a healthy cow especially with the death rate ya'll have had. With loosing that many calves there must be something pretty seriously wrong. I would get calves from a different dairy in the future and it is very important that they receive colostrum for several days before you bring them home. You might check their housing for drafts and wet spots. This time of the year that can take a pretty heavy toll on young animals. Sorry I can't advise you on medications. Everything I used to use for animals has changed.....I haven't had to medicate any of my animals in a very long time. Which brings up an interesting point.....all the medications I used to use are no longer available..considered unsafe. I wonder if the medications we use now will be the same way in 5-10 years.

-- Amanda in Mo (, January 28, 2001.

Jonathan: I also am concerned about the colostrum. That is way too high a rate of lose. What are you feeding? The cheap milk replacer is not a good buy. Tryed it and it was the only time we lost calves. I am also wondering about the feeding program of the dairy. You don't say where you are, around here (mich) selenium is a real problem and if the cows aren't given adequate selenium during pregnancy the calves are all weak and sickly (the used to call it white muscle disease). I am like Amanada, have not raised large amts. of calves just lately so my medication knowledge is low. We have just raised singles for the last couple of years and I have not needed any. I would change where I got my calves.

-- diane (, January 28, 2001.

jonathan,my main concern is how you have them penned together or are you feeding them on bottle or bucket and what are you feeding milk replacer or cow milk.I've always given mine a shot of penicllin for four or five days.sometimes I give LA 2000 but it takes about 24 to 48 hrs for it to work, penicllin starts to work right off.if you need to e mail me back do so if I can be of help,good luck and God Bless. dave

-- david jackson (, January 28, 2001.

Wow,I would get a vet out and see what they say,the death rate is way to high. I would change milk replacer and stop buying them from that dairy also. Have you talked to the dairy about this? how long are the calves w/ the cows? The dairy up the road ties feed sacks on the younge calves like a coat to help keep them warm. Are you offering hay? or feed? i would start by calling the dairy and ask them nicely what they would recomend.

-- renee oneill{md.} (, January 28, 2001.

Thanks Amanda, Renee, Dave, and Diane for your responses. For the sake of any others reading this, I'll respond to your questions publicly as I have directly to you.

As Amanda suggested, we'll probably avoid putting the calf with the cow. The calf seems to be some better today, but has a 103 degree temperature. A vet friend recommended doing the penicillin, so I think we'll pursue that.

Like Renee, we suspect the primary problem is with the dairy. The manager we're working through is a good friend, and says the calves are getting colostrum staying with the cows for at least the first 12 hours, but we still wonder if there are problems with the birth environment or something--our death rate is way too high.

Regarding Dave's LA 2000 injections, does anyone know the relative benefits/drawbacks of LA 2000 vs. penicillin?

We keep the calves in separate hutches and feed them from a bottle with colostrum milk from the dairy for at least the first 4-5 days. After that we move them to milk replacer and buckets.

I'm going to follow up on Diane's selenium question. We're in Central California. A vet friend in another state also suggested I ask the local vet about the possibility of selenium deficiency. I'll do that tomorrow.

We get a multiple-day supply of colostrum from the dairy when we pick up calves, but we're not real confident this is the highest quality (earliest) colostrum possible.

-- Jonathan Lindvall (, January 28, 2001.

I would suggest a medicated milk replacer if you are using one .Also do not use one that is soy based..How many times a day are you feeding them and how much ? Is warm water brought to them at least 2 times a day ?It sounds like dehydration .I would try to get extra fluids with electrolytes in them .For scours use scours control 2 , great stuff .Don't skimp on medicating them if you do thet WILL die.Survival rates in auction calfs stink it should be better with them fresh off the farm .The last thing I can think of is to sterilize all bottles , buckets and feeding equipment after each feeding .

-- Patty {NY State} (, January 28, 2001.

Jonathan; as to your question about LA2000 vs. penicllin, I've used both but the penicllin seems to work a lot faster and I get better results from it.When I get bottle calves from the sale barn, the first I do is give a vitiam and penicllin shot. And wait at least 24 hrs. before I try to give bottle only useing milk replacer with warm water and if I have one that is scour's I give one cup of flour in with the replacer and warm water and it is usally gone in one day. let me also ask if you are warming the milk you are giving it to calves if not you may want to try this. Also let me ask how old are the calves when you get them. God Bless , dave

-- david jackson (, January 28, 2001.

We always have at least 3 or 4 holstein bottle babies. The only thing that could cause that bad of luck would be coccydiosis that has spread(however you would be seeing bloody scours), or no collostrum. I forget, did you get these at the auction? Some people are so cruel as to sell day old calves that have never nursed or who have only nursed once. We saved one once that was born the day of the auction and separated at birth. I just plain fell in love with the tiny thing. Came home on my lap in the truck. First, always make sure that they have had collostrum or have some on hand to give them the first 3 days. The first 24 hours is absolutely a must!!! There are many forms of this. The best is straight from a dairy that may have some extra(frozen or fresh)Otherwise you can buy it powdered. Next if you must medicate them, and you do if you are tubing them to get them to eat, give them a supplement with their meds. A good one is vitacharge or one with aspergyllus oryza(sp?). This is the stuff that the rumen has to have and the meds kill off the good stuff at the same time. Sometimes they have scours from the meds! If you are tubing them, be careful if you are tubing them while they are laying down you must hold their head up until the milk is down or they can asperate on it. I tried to save a premie not to long ago and she was no bigger than a dog. (about 30 pds) She died after the milk came back up. I had not thought to hold her head up until she swallowed all of the bottle. You learn from your mistakes. I hope that you all have better luck. A vet can check for the coccydiosis. I don't think that it is species specific so you might need to watch other livestock if that is it. God bless!

-- Nan (, January 29, 2001.

Thanks to each of you for the advice. I've interacted with you directly, but will post my responses (& follow-up questions) here for anyone else reading this.

Regarding Patty's suggestions & questions, we try to avoid medication unless it is needed. We may be too dogmatic on that. We use medicated milk replacer, along with other medications, once a calf develops symptoms. But we hope to raise at least a few that we can sell to friends and use ourselves, knowing they haven't been medicated.

I'll have to check regarding whether either of our milk replacers (medicated and non-medicated) is soy based. What is the problem with this?

We feed the calves 3-4 cups of warmed colostrum (first 4-5 days) and then warm milk replacer three times a day until they are a couple of weeks old. Then we move them to the same total quantity but in two daily feedings. We use bottles for the first week or two, and then move them to buckets.

We have not thought to provide WARM water. Their water buckets are from the tap and then take the temperature of the air. We do introduce electolytes instead of colostrum/milk for some of the feedings when they show signs of scouring.

We use hot soap water and bleach to clean bottles, buckets, & tubes after each use (even between animals).

What is "scours control 2?"

I've never heard Dave's idea of flour in the replacer for scours. Would Dave or anybody else be willing to expand on this? Are you talking the store-bought white, bleached flour, or whole wheat flour (we grind our own)? How much replacer do you put the one cup of flour in? How did it work?

We're getting the calves at a day old right from the dairy.

Regarding Nan's thoughts, we are not seeing bloody scours in this case (actually the feces is firm and the right color). But we have had bloody scours in some of the others that died.

We get the calves from a dairy rather than an auction. We usually get colostrum from the dairy, but I should learn where to get it in powdered form for the occasional times when they don't save it for us. Anyone have some sources to refer me to?

Are "vitacharge" and "aspergyllus oryza" some sort of enzymes or cultures like acidophilus? Are these available at feed stores? Or are there other sources? I see the point about meds killing the flora in the rumen.

Thanks for all the tips.

-- Jonathan Lindvall (, January 29, 2001.

Have you thought about the bacillus Clostridium?It causes tetanus. (lock jaw).Even if he is not infected the toxin it produces if ingested can cause the wasting symptoms that you described.Call in a vet unless it is a too expensive option for you.You should be able to find all the info you need on diagnosis and treatment in the Merk vet manual.

-- Gregory J Smith (, January 29, 2001.

Jonathan, when we were raising a lot of calves I brought them home and gave a big shot of BoSe, gave electrolytes the first 2 feedings and mixed yogurt in their bottles the first few days. Never had much trouble with scours. If you have had calves with bloody diarrha in the past, you could have a "bug" living in your barn and really need to start fresh by bleaching everything. Coccidia is one cause but the deadly e-coli will also produce those terrible scours. Your loss rate sounds like my Amish neighbor's problem that cultures showed e- coli. The weak ones got it and died the strong survived but didn't thrive. He had to empty his calf barn and bleach EVERYTHING in order to get rid of it. just a thought Oh, I made the yogurt myself with a "big batch" yogurt maker. Also gave it on the rare times that I had to use antibiotics. The LA200 is Liquamycin, a drug that is longer acting and takes a lot longer to clear the system and much more specific for shipping fever and some of the things that calves are suseptible to.

-- diane (, January 29, 2001.

Never with hold milk ! Instead give them extra feeding of electrolytes .I would not worry about drugs at this point , it will be a year or 2 until they are in the freezer .Soy doses not give them what they need , it is harder to digest .

-- Patty {NY State} (, January 29, 2001.

Jonathan, re; flour in replacer for scour, I use the kind that you buy at the store bleached I think, there is a old timer that I use for the old way of raising calves, very valuable friend. Just use this one time or if a second dose is needed use only a half cup. the reason I wait 12 to 24 hrs. before I feed when I first buy calves, is that mine have already had colostrum {they always tell if calves have had this } and it makes them take bottle better, and can tell if it needs any medicine at this point. how old are calves when you start to lose them , it seems to me you have a good program for your calves. I would look at the dairy where you buy them at as was suggested by someone else , it just has to be there. if can be any more help email God Bless Dave

-- david jackson (, January 29, 2001.

You can get vitacharge from a vitaferm dealer. It is a supplement that you can give in bolus form or crushed in the milk. We give them one whether they need it or not, because it keeps the rumen happy!! We get ours straight from the dairy too now. How clean is the dairy that you are getting them from? Some have a very high level of bacteria and have trouble with raising calves themselves. I have noticed over the years that the cleanest dairies provide the healthiest calves. 50 pds is small for a holstein baby. Ours generally run around 75 or more. My husband runs into a lot of nice dairymen that have extra bulls to give us or sell cheap. He works with 140 dairies or so and so we are kinda lucky that way. My husband always says that LA200 will either cure em or kill em. We only use it as a last resort too. I just got off the phone with my husband and he said that the Excenel injections have messed up the flora and fauna of the rumen. Get a bolus down em as soon as possible. I wouldn't try any more meds. unless the vet sees signs of pneumonia(labored breathing, snotty nose). Please give us a e-mail if you can't find any vitaferm dealers in your area. We will send you some of ours and give you a source to get them. OH....rinse that bleach and soap out of their bottles very very well! and God Bless , Nan

-- Nan (, January 29, 2001.

Don't overlook the use of a good sulfa product like Albon (Dimethox is the same) Sulfaquinoxiline which is my favorite, and since the sulfa's are not atagonists against thiamin to work, you can use it for a much longer period of time. This will take care of bacterial scours, cocci, ecoli etc. A much broader spectrum of care rather than injectable antibiotics, unless you know that specific oraganism you are after. Remember that ruminent animals are born really as single stomached animals, and replacing the flora to the gut may be important but don't think rumen until they are eating solid food. Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh TX (, January 29, 2001.

I just called my friend who is a vet for info. on that. My hubby could tell ya' why the vitacharge works, but I just know that it does. I would be really leary (SP?) of any more meds. if you have already given them something as strong as the Excenel. You can literally medicate them to death. Over the years we have raised hundreds of calves and never ever had such bad luck as Jon. is having. That is awful! Out of all of the calves we have raised we would probably only say 1 or 2 % have been lost over the years. Most that we have lost, someone else gave us and had already given up on them. I'm a soft touch for a calf. I will let you know what my hubby or the vet says when they get back with me. God Bless and hug those calves for me!!!!

-- Nan (, January 29, 2001.

When we got our bottle calves, they already had had colustrum. We used a good milk replacer that is medicated. Like you I don't like the drugs, but you are trying to raise calves in an artificial environment already and need to compensate for that. We tried the cheaper milk replacer and switched to keep the calves healthy.

For scours we put an egg in every bottle (2qt) every feeding. An old-timers trick around here. It also gives them extra protein when they are weak. Worked for us.

One thing though, we had a calf this year that the mom initially rejected and we had to bottle it for a day. We used commercial colustrum and a bag makes 2 qts which should be fed all in one day. It sounds like you might not be feeding them enough. This calf took all of the colustrum and another qt of milk replacer his first day. He might be an exception, but he was hungry. The second day we milked out his mom and he took the whole 2 qts in the first feeding. We were able to 'convince' his mom to let him nurse finally and he is doing fine on her.

-- beckie (, January 29, 2001.

I have a very patient vet who answers all of my questions. Her suggestions were as follows. Get a thermometer. If the temp. is between 100 1/2 and 102 1/2 you are all right and don't need to medicate them. I didn't notice all of the medications that you had given them until I had read back through the posts again. She said if the meds(if the calf is running a fever)are not getting the calf any improvementwithin a couple of days, then you need to switch to another med. She also suggested a product like vitacharge to help the calves tummy. It gives them a boost and seems to help them along. She uses Probias and said that the vitacharge was good too. She gave me so much advice that I can not remember all of it. She was also thinking that you can medicate them to death!!! Only if they are running a temp. do you need to medicate them. Any other questions come up and I would be glad to ask her or my husband. I am just the repeater of info. around here and the cuddler of calves. Has anyone sung to them;~)Mine like to hear a soft voice and be cuddled! My husband says that it doesn't help, but hey I enjoy it!!!!! God Bless!

-- Nan (, January 29, 2001.

OH...forgot something else....She said that if you continue to have trouble with the calves from a certain dairy , then switch dairies. My sentiments exactly! Some have chronic problems that you don't want!!!! Some just don't raise a good healthy calf crop. Are all of your calves that small? A holstein calf should range between 75 and 100 pds. unless they are premies or twins! She also said that some first calf heifers don't have good colostrum and you need to give them good colostrum from an older cow with in 6 to 10 hours of birth. She does that for 3 to 5 days. You can freeze it if someone has an overabundance. Some cows produce a bunch and the dairyman can't use it all.

-- Nan (, January 29, 2001.

Nan ,lots of good info .

-- Patty {NY State} (, January 29, 2001.

As far as pail feedind if you are letting them suck it out of the pail instead of using a pail with a nipple on it they are not producing enough saliva to breakdown the replacer. We raise cow calf pairs and have bought dairy calves when prices are right. We try to get them on a mix of sweet feed and good quality pelets as soon as the show intrest. As far as LA-2000 it is more of a before the problem medication but a good med and we use it for its long term coverage but penicilin is still the best bet if you follow up with the repeated doses. Good luck and hope you can solve this. Its nice to have a place like this for info.

-- Steve (, February 01, 2001.

I've sure appreciated the advice each of you have given. The calf still has a bit of a cough, but he is alert, hungry, and his temperature is 101.5 degrees F.

I've responded to each of your comments/questions individually, but as previously I want to provide responses here to the public posts for the sake of others reading this.

I hadn't even considered Gregory's thought regarding the possibility of it being tetanus. I'll have to ask the vet about that next time we're there. We really can't afford calling out the vet for each calf that gets sick, so we generally try to avoid the expense unless it looks like there is something I'll learn that is applicable to more than just this one situation.

I've never heard of "the Merk vet manual." Apparently it's something Gregory recommends. Can anyone give me info on acquiring it?

I hadn't thought of Diane's idea of giving the calves yogurt, but that makes sense. We make a fair amount of "big batch" yogurt for ourselves. I'm sure our calves would benefit, too.

I'm such a novice I honestly have no idea what "a shot of BoSe" is. Since it is a "shot" I am guessing it is a pharmaceutical medication. But she mentioned "rare" antibiotics. (We prefer avoiding medications unless they are truly needed to save the calf's life.) What is BoSe?

Here in California barns are not as typical as in other parts of the country. We don't have one (yet) and are raising the calves in individual covered hutches. Each hutch is bleached and moved to fresh ground between calves. Bottles and buckets are bleached between calves, too. But I imagine contagious germs are still a possibility despite our cautions.

Over the last few days I've been told by several local folks that our 50% survival rate is not unusual for small-time back-yard raisers like us getting calves from dairies. Apparently the healthiest ones typically get picked up by commercial calf-raisers.

Patty suggested that we "never withhold milk." That is contrary to advice our vet and the folks at our feed store gave. Yet, when I asked how long to withhold milk their answers were pretty non-committal. Her idea of adding, rather than replacing milk with, eloctrolytes makes more sense to me.

I checked our milk replacer and it is mostly milk products, but includes soy. I would welcome any further thoughts on pro & con of soy, and how purist to be.

We'll have to try Dave's flour trick next time we get a scouring calf. Has anyone else tried this? What were the results?

Regarding not feeding for the first 12-24 hours, even if I knew they had gotten colostrum I would worry about dehydration. I guess 12 hours wouldn't be so hard (like overnight), but 24 seems pretty scary. But I'm a novice. Does anyone else have advice on this?

Nan is such a helpful heart. It sounds like her Vitaferm must be a type of pro-biotic sort of like acidophillus. I wonder if live-culture yogurt would serve the same purpose? It would almost certainly be much cheaper. Or does Vitaferm have something else that would make it worth the added expense? I'll call around regarding Vitaferm dealers, but if anyone has a list of suppliers, I would welcome it.

I, too, have questions about the dairy. But I doubt this dairy is better or worse than the many other confinement dairies we have here.

I'm afraid I'm such a novice I have only a vague sense of what Vicki is explaining regarding the "sulfa product." Isn't "sulfa" a term for antibiotics like penicillin? It sounds like the one she's talking about is not an "injectable" (thus it is given orally?). Should I ask a vet about this, or is it typically available at feed stores?

I'm not sure I understand the significance of her comments about ruminents being "single-stomached" from birth. But replacing flora sure sounds wise. Would yogurt likely suffice, or does anyone recommend something more?

Beckie's egg idea is a novelty to me. I assume these are raw eggs? Does anyone else do this? Two eggs each day? How long do you do that? I'd love to hear more about this idea if anyone knows has input.

I've been told that it is better to underfeed than to overfeed. We're starting the calves with three daily feedings of one quart each, and gradually increasing the total amount, and then later backing off to two daily feedings. Are we underfeeding too much?

-- Jonathan Lindvall (, February 01, 2001.

I hadn't thought about the saliva issue Steve brought up. Someone did suggest that the tilt of their head that naturally occurs in nursing should be simulated with a bottle. I suppose a nippled bucket would also provide that benefit. I'll have to ponder that.

-- Jonathan Lindvall (, February 02, 2001.

My neighbor around the corner(1 mile away,snicker snicker) uses the raw eggs, I have also heard of using peptobismal, and other things like baking soda....etc....we have never used anything like that. If you know someone else in your area with more success, you might ask them what they are doing. We never separate our calves, the kids wash out the bottles so they are anything but sterile....I would say that it has to be the hugs they get every day! :~D Jon, you are just going to have to start being a calf hugger!!! HaHaHa and if that doesn't help, get the vita charge bolus down em. Either way you are going to get a lot of calf slobbers on you!!! HEEHEEHEE!

-- Nan (, February 02, 2001.

BoSe is injectable vitamin E and selenium; I like to use it in bottle babies; it helps with their immune system as well. For future reference, if you start losing that many calves, it might be a good idea to submit one to the diagnostic lab; if that cannot be done, I am sure your vet could take samples from a recently dead calf to submit. A calf should be fed 10% of its birth weight; 80 pound calf would need 8 pounds of milk (approx. weight of a gallon of milk) per day; I always gave mine 2 quarts twice a day. There are a couple of products available that can help with neonatal diarrhea; Bovine Ecolizer (for E.coli) and Calf-guard (rotavirus and coronavirus); both products must be given within 12 hours of birth; but again it would be nice to know what you are dealing with. Coccidia and cryptosporidia can both cause diarrhea and kill calves. Does the dairy you get your calves from have any kind of a vaccination program ? I like to use an intranasal IBR product on bottle babies as well; seems to help with pneumonia problems. I would try to get some samples to the lab...CDM

-- Christopher Mattingly (, February 02, 2001.

we are remodeling a complete confinement barn for calves, what vaccinations should be given on arrival. what is the best temp and humidity for calves

-- rick dake (, January 20, 2002.

I can totally sympathize with you. We bought 60 heifer calves last April and had about half die within a month. The ones I have left, are ones that never missed a beat and they are HUGE! I was searching on the internet today because I've got calves right now with bloody scours and I came across this and thought I'd throw out a few more ideas for you. Anytime I have a calf with even the slighest hint of scours I put Kentrol (made by Kent) or Arrest (get from vet) in the milk. There's a home recipe for this too somewhere on the internet. It thickens up the milk, helps stop them up. I drop them down to 1/2 rate milk replacer with Arrest in it for about 4 days. If they are hungry, give them all the liquids they will drink, but put the Arrest in all of it. Just like with humans, give us too many fluids and we get diahrea too. Also, when I get a new calf in I give it 5cc's of extended action penicillin. Asprin works great for their fevers, also helps make them feel better. If you're not into antibotics, try Naxel. It's a "good" drug. I had salmonella go through my heifers, and I had 4 different vets out who all said to try Sulfatrim. It can cause kidney failure so don't do it for more than 3 days. If they're eyes are sinking in, really should give them an Iv to give them back the fluids they've lost. My final hail mary I give them after I've ran out of options is a shot of a product called LS-50. Some things are not labeled for certain things, but people will tell you it's okay to use them anyway. Believe them, because most often it works. LS-50 kills the bad bacteria, unfortunately also kills their good bugs, but normally signs of improvement are visible the next day. There's really no right or wrong, it's just trial and error. But, I don't know if I'd give up on the dairy, I'd advise them of the troubles you are having and maybe they can change the vacination program of the cows to see if it'll produce healthy calves. I get my calves from my husband's farm, and I know for fact they do everything like you should, but I've had sick calves my last 4 batches from them. Now they are making changes. Sometimes it's nice to know it's not you, it's them! Good luck!

-- Amy Rozeboom (, February 05, 2002.

when treating a calf that is not doing well i would suggest that you treat for scours and give him a dose or two of la 200 and give him acouple packs of electrolites. you should notice a difference in acoulp of days. this is what i would do if he was mine. Larry Dunn [

-- larry dunn (, February 06, 2002.

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