Lost (Jersey) cow and calf birthing, what happened?

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Got called to a neighbors last night. Her Jersey cow was down, bloated and had passed what looked like stomach contents through her nose/mouth. She was 3 days late with her calf, mucus from the birth canal, but not in active labor. We tried pulling the calf, but with no contractions or pushing, couldn't make much progress. The calf was already dead, and the cow never got up again. The owner swears that she did not get into feed or grain. Grass here is very lush right now. Does anybody have any ideas what may have happened, especially as regards the bloating and regurgitation?

-- David C (fleece@eritter.net), April 19, 2001


Response to Lost cow and calf birthing, what happened?

My guess is the calfs hoof peirced something inside[ stomach , intestine ].What a sad thing to have happen.my condolinces.

-- kathy h (ckhart55@earthlink.net), April 19, 2001.

Response to Lost cow and calf birthing, what happened?

Except for the regurgation, my guess would be milk fever.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), April 19, 2001.

Response to Lost cow and calf birthing, what happened?

A few years ago I lost my very best cow which was tame and I was waiting for the baby so I could milk her. I would brush her every day and she followed me around. Well, the baby ripped the womb somehow and she had like a basketball size bump sticking out of her side. She was due but never went into labor. The vet said right away we couldn't save her, and to get her in the trailor while she could still walk. They rushed her to the "place" and they knew to try to save the baby (2 minutes) but the baby didn't make it (they were so nice to try) I would think your friends cow ripped something too. I'm sorry you had to go thru that, I cried for days about my cow. And the baby was a girl.

-- Cindy in Ky (solidrockranch@hotmail.com), April 19, 2001.

Response to Lost cow and calf birthing, what happened?

Oh Cindy, that must have been so difficult! For anyone to lose livestock like that must be awful.

One of the greatest things abot this forum is the wealth of information. I doubt that I will ever be able to have cows or much in livestock, but I learn everyday about something! God bless!

-- Ardie from WI (a6203@hotmail.com), April 20, 2001.

Response to Lost cow and calf birthing, what happened?

Probably the thing which bothers me about this post is you were called, rather than the vet. They may have saved both the cow and calf for the price of their visit. They are professionals and are entitled to be compensated as such. I have had two Jerseys and both have come down with milk fever. Lost the first since I didn't know the signs and the second came down with it two years in a row - and now works for someone else if she survived her next calving.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), April 20, 2001.

Response to Lost cow and calf birthing, what happened?

Ken, You really are not in a position to make that comment. For your information, we live in a mountain community, with just one vet in the entire county, 2-3 hours away. No one makes house calls to this region! It was an emergency situation at 1:00AM. One of our other neighbors was also called, who has a lifetime experience of raising cattle. We have devoted our lives to homesteading, it is not easy. There is a lot of work and pain. There is also a lot of joy. We posted here for advice, not to be judged. Is this no longer a homesteading bulletin board? We find your misplaced attempt at help offensive and insulting. Actually it was not even an attempt at help, It was judging people you did not know, who live a life style you may not understand.

p.s. for your information, the cows owner has consulted with their vet(yes they travel two hours to see one!!) and milk fever has been ruled out.

Cindy, Thank you for your helpful comment. This is the kind of advice and sentiment the countryside community is based on, or so we thought.

-- David C (fleece@eritter.net), April 21, 2001.

Response to Lost cow and calf birthing, what happened?


Your comments are well taken and I apologize for my remarks.

I am surprised though the vet dismissed milk fever. According to the Merek Vet Manual, bloat and regurgitation are late symptoms. Both times the vet was here to treat the one Jersey he said anything he hears Jersey down, he suspects milk fever. When due to calf or just calved are thrown in he becomes almost sure of it.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), April 22, 2001.

Response to Lost cow and calf birthing, what happened?


Thank you for your apology. Our response was a bit heated, we appreciate that you were not offended. We will pass your comments on to our neighbor so she can further discuss this with her vet. I do not know why she eliminated milk fever. I know they hope to get another Jersey in the near future and knowing they are prone to milk fever would be helpful.

-- David (fleece@eritter.net), April 22, 2001.

Response to Lost cow and calf birthing, what happened?

From Merek's Vet Manual:

- An afebrile disease of mature dairy cows that occurs most commonly at or soon after parturition; it is manifest by circulatory collapse, generalized paresis and depression.

The disease, usually associated with the sudden onset of profuse lactation, is an acute hypocalcemia in which the serum calcium level drops from normal. Serum magesium may be depressed and result in tetancy, or elevated and result in flaccid paralysis and somnolence. The disease may occur in cows of any age, but is most common in dairy cows 5-9 years old. There is a higher incidence in the Jersey breed.

Parturient paresis usually occurs within 72 hours after parturition, but occasionally before, during or even some months thereafter.

Early in the onset, the cow may exhibit some unsteadiness as she walks. More frequently, she is in sternal recumbency and unable to rise; the head may be displaced to one side or turned into the flank. The eyes are dull and staring and the pupils dialated. Anorexia is complete, the muzzle tends to be dry and the extremities are cool. The GI trace is antonic with supressed defecation and a relaxed anus. (Which appears to be bloat. Also impacted is the urinary system. First time the vet was here he warned me not to stand behind her after she got up. Within a minute or so she pissed a stream of strong smelling urine about five feet in back of her.) If tretment is delayed many hours, the dullness gives way to coma, which becomes progessively deeper and death ensues. With approaching coma, the animal assumes lateral recumbency, which predisposes to bloating, regurgitation and aspiration pneumonia.

Treatment in the early stages is more successful and fewer relapes occur. Animals affected at or within a few hours of paturition appear to develop more severe signs more rapidly than animals affected at other times. Differental diagnoses include metritis, coliform mastitis, grass tetany, acute indigestion, tramatic gastritis, coxofemoral luxations, obturator paralysis, lumphosarcoma, spinal compression and fracture of the pelvis. Some of these disease, in addition to aspiration pneumonia and degenerative myopathy, may also occur concurrently with parturient paresis or as complications.

Basically treatment is a magnesium paste spirted in the mouth, followed by an IV of a calcium solution in one of the jugulars.

I can't find my copy of Jeffer's catalog, but I know they sell the magnesium paste, which can be kept on hand. I doubt the IV calcium solution can be ordered, but might be supplied by a vet in your situation if milk fever may occur - such as a cow got it the last calving.

The Jersey I lost appeared to have gotten milk fever late in her lactation when I put a large bottle calf on her. The signs were there, I just didn't associate them with milk fever and decided to call the vet the next morning if she didn't improve. The next morning she was dead. I didn't have her posted, but the vet said milk fever was the likely cause.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), April 22, 2001.

Response to Lost cow and calf birthing, what happened?

Found my Jeffer's catalog. They sell six calcium and/or magnesium (plus other additive) gels (plus the applicator), a drench solution and the calcium gluconate used for IV (plus the IV tube and needles).

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), April 22, 2001.

Cows bloat easily on lush growth, and if there is a lot of legumes, like clover, especially, in the pasture that can be a real problem. This sounds like what happened to me, especially if the cow did a lot of thrashing around before she died (bloat is one of the nastier ways for an animal to die). It could be coincidental that it happened right before freshening. I'm a dairy farmer in Northern NYS and have dragged my share of cows down to the swamp, but the deaths that you can't explain are particularly hard to take. Sorry to hear it happened.

-- Jennifer L. (jlance@imcnet.net), April 23, 2001.

I have never responded to a forum before, but I just couldn't let this one go.

We milk jerseys for a living. Your discription is so classical milk fever, I find it hard to believe any vet with any experience with jerseys would miss it. Unfortunately, not all vets are familiar with jerseys and the problems that occur in the breed more than in others.

Ken's answers are quite good, but please allow me to add a few words of advice. I didn't find any where in the answers where giving calcium IV can KILL a cow if not administered correctly.

First, we use a solution that contains 10.8g of calcium (equivalent to 23.2% calicium gluconate) Too much, too fast is BAD. It also contains potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and dextrose, and also works for grass tetany.

Second, it needs to be administered IV to be effective, which in most cases requires a vet. We do it ourselves, but after years of milking only jerseys and hundreds of calvings, it has become just another chore to be done, OCCASSIONALLY. As far as I know, there is no other cure for milk fever, but I do know it is completely curable. If untreated, it is certain death.

Oral treatments do not cure. They may help until the IV arrives, but I couldn't tell you. I do know you can help if you are able to place it in the peritoneum until the vet or experienced neighbor can give the IV. I also know with certainty that when a cow goes down with milk fever before calving, you need to give her a bottle of the Cal- dextrose before you pull the calf. Then give her another, if needed after the birthing. There's more to it than that, but I'm trying to keep this as simple as possible.

We do not feed any legumes to our dry cows unless we just really like treating for milk fever. Any one with just one or two jersey cows that get milk fever year after year are probably killing the cows with kindness. Legumes are a sure fired way to insure milk fever. STOP IT! Feed grass hay and grain with NO added calcium during the dry period. Lush grass is fine, just no legumes. Down cows bloat, pure and simple. Cows with milk fever struggle. Excretions from both ends happens when cows struggle. Don't let that confuse the issue.

We have calved more than 200 jersey cows in one year and not had more than a handful of milk fever cases. Jerseys are relatively problem free and long lived. You should be enjoying your homestead cows for many years and I hope this helps you to do so.

-- Scottland Jerseys (farmerj@fidmail.com), April 25, 2001.

Thanks all, sounds like a consensus now! It's probably true that the vet is not too familiar with Jerseys. Our neighbor didn't see any of the symptoms either (could be she missed them). The calf was already dead, is this common for a case of milk fever?

We plan to get our own milk cow soon, were trying to decide between a Jersey and a Dexter. Maybe this case makes the decision for us!

-- David C (fleece@eritter.net), April 25, 2001.


My Jerseys have just been calf machines in a beef herd as I didn't milk them. I don't recommend this one experience turn you off against Jerseys. They are extremely gentle and loveable. When they fix you with those doe-like eyes, it is hard to deny them anything. The one which got milk fever twice was called 'Baby'. You would not get anywhere near the quality or quanity of milk out of a Dexter. Just do all you can to understand the breed and be prepared in advance for problems. You might also consider a Jersey-cross. I also have a short-legged Holstein in the herd and she hasn't caused me a minute of problems while producing nice calves.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), April 25, 2001.

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