Heifers On Pasture

Animal Reproductive Technologies


Animal Reproductive Technologies

VACCINATIONS, TREATMENTS & MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS                         September, 2005



Calving & Newborn Calf Procedures:


Supplies needed:

Iodine, 7% tincture

Vaccine and immuno-supplements

Calf Guard; oral Rota and Corona viruses vaccine

Clostridium perfringens types C & D Toxiod

Clostridium perfringens types C & D Antitoxin

E. Coli K99 antibody preparations


BoSe;  injectable selenium and vitamin E supplement                        

Iron Dextran injection

Vitamin B complex (with B12)

Ear tags, tagger and tag marking pens

Tattoo equipment

Tattoo pliers

Tattoo letters & numbers

Tattoo ink

Calving equipment & supplies

Disinfectant solution and soap (NOLVASAN or BETADINE)

Obstetrical lubricant

Obstetrical chains

Handles for chains

Calf puller or come-along

Oral treatment of calf

Esophageal feeder

Nipple bottle


Frozen colostrum

Bags of colostrum substitute


Dopram injectable




Penicillin G

Oxytetracycline 200mg/ml


Saline solution

Oral electrolyte packets



Immediately at the time of calving administer the following:

CALFGAURD (Pfizer), Rotavirus and Corona virus MLV vaccine is used when these scours producing viruses are a problem in the herd.  This products should be given within 6 hours of birth at the very latest, if it is given within 2 hours of birth it will be more effective.  Vaccination of the dam with SCOURGAURD 3K-C (Pfizer) prior to calving accomplishes the same goal of scour prevention as long as adequate high quality colostrum is consumed by the calf. (See below under "Cows & Heifers, Pre-Calving".)


Clostridium perfringens C&D Antitoxin can be given at birth to calves on cows with high milk production capability.


Clostridium perfringens C&D Toxoid can also be given at this time to initiate the calves’ immune response to these bacteria.


Iodine navel, use 7% strong tincture of iodine, do not use tamed iodine, navel iodine or teat dip, these products do not dry and seal the navel as well as 7% tincture.


Antibody Preparations - GENECOL-99 or Bovine Ecolizer (Shering), FIRST DEFENSE (ImmuCell Corp.), or other E. coli K99 antibody preparations, can be given for scours prevention.  These product are usually used only if diarrhea becomes a problem during the calving season.  They should be given ASAP after birth along with CALFGAURD.


If the calf appears to be starting slow, is weak, or if the calf was pulled; it may have lost blood, via the placenta, into the uterus.  The following may be given in these situations:

            Vitamin B complex

            Iron dextran


If the calf seems to be in extreme distress call for a veterinarian and place the calf in a “hot box” or someplace warm (DO NOT place the calf on a cold surface, even in a warm room, use straw, blankets or mats under the calf).  If the calf is in shock or is hypothermic IV fluids can be given.  If the calf is in shock from blood loss; a blood transfusion can be given to the calf (blood collected from the cow) along with the IV fluids.


Within the first 6 hours after birth:

Verify that the calf has consumed enough colostrum.  In general a calf should consume 8 to 10% (one gallon) of its body weight in colostrum within the first 12 hours after calving.  Make sure the cow's udder has been nursed.  If in doubt, milk the cow and administer colostrum by 6 hours post-partum.  It is best to allow the calf to suckle from a clean nursing bottle.  If suckling from a bottle is not possible it is acceptable to use an esophageal feeder to give the colostrum.  Do not administer more than the calf will suckle at one time.  It is best to give 1 quart every 3 to 4 hours during the first 12 hours for a total of 1 gallon.  Giving too much at one time can cause the calf to aspirate fluid into the lungs.  Do not feed anything prior to feeding colostrum or a high quality colostrum substitute.  The first feeding will start a process whereby the stomach and intestines start to loose their ability to absorb undigested antibodies. 


Always keep a supply of frozen colostrum and/or some bags of colostrum substitute such as COLOSTRX (Schering) or IMMUNO PLUS-36 (Jorgenson).  Colostrum from the dam or other beef cow is superior to any of the colostrum substitutes as a source of antibodies.  When necessary, colostrum substitutes are better than nothing.   Colostrum substitutes can also serve as an excellent source of energy and antibodies for a weak or ill calf.  Colostrum should be collected from a teat(s) that has not been suckled or milked.  Note on the chart below how rapidly IgG Antibody levels decrease after a cow has been milked 1 or 2 times.  Dairy cow colostrum tends to be dilute and can be a poor source of antibodies.  If dairy colostrum is used it should come from a cow that has not been previously milked, and it should be checked with a colostrometer for concentration.


It is always best for the calf to nurse it’s mother or if necessary suckle from a nipple bottle.  By actively suckling the calf will shunt all colostrum or milk into the 4th stomach (abomasum), where it is properly absorbed or digested.  If the calf is unable or unwilling to suckle, an esophageal feeder may be used to administer colostrum, milk or oral fluids.  When an esophageal feeder is used, a portion of the colostrum or milk will lie in the rumen where colostrum is not absorbed efficiently and milk is not curdled and digested properly.  Use of an esophageal feeder is acceptable though, if the calf refuses to suckle.  Never use an esophageal feeder when the calf is recumbent or in shock, as the calf may aspirate the fluid and suffocate or develop aspiration pneumonia.  Get the calf up to tube it.  If the calf is weak, but is able to stand, cut the amount of fluid given in half (a pint at a time is a good amount).  Feed weak calves a pint of warm colostrum every 3 to 4 hours (up to 6 time a day).  As the calf gets stronger you can go to 1 quart per feeding every 6 to 8 hours (3 time a day).  Keep an eye on the stomach and make sure that it is not overfilled prior to feeding.


Colostrum composition


Milking Number






Specific gravity





Solids, %





Protein, %





Casein, %





IgG, mg/ml





Fat, %





Lactose, %





Vitamin A, microgram/L





Vitamin D, IU/g fat

0.9 to 1.8




Riboflavin, microgram/ml





Choline, mg/ml





From: Foley & Otterby, 1978. J. of Dairy Sci. 61:1033


For the most accurate birth weight, the calf should be weighed shortly after birth (as soon as it is dry).  If obtaining the weight is delayed for 12 hours, you can expect a transient weight loss for 24 to 48 hours, followed by weight gain.


Within the first 24 hours after birth:

Tattoo – Heifers; tattoo the left ear only, with the animal ID.  Reserve the right ear of heifers for the brucellosis vaccination tattoo and tag and for a 2nd ID tattoo at weaning time.  Bulls can be tattooed in either or both ears with an ID tattoo.  Disinfect tattoo pliers in a  NOLVASAN solution between calves to prevent the spread of warts.


Tag – Place an ear tag in the left ear of heifers, leaving the right ear free for brucellosis tattoo and tag.  Tag the right ear of bulls and steers.  This also makes it easier to sort bulls and steers from the heifers at weaning time.  If it is below zero (temperature) it would be better to wait 24 hours to tag the calf.   Tagging and tattooing may contribute to frost bite, especially if the calf’s ears are still wet or if the calf is hypothermic.   Mark the calf with spray paint or chalk if any confusion as to identity is possible.


BO-SE (Shering) should be given to calves born in a selenium deficient area. I


If an elastrator band is to be used for castration, It should be used at calving or before the calf reaches 1 month of age.  After this time many calves are too large to safely use an elastrator band.


Data collection and record of calving should include:



Weather conditions

Calf ID (tag & tattoo)

Dam ID

Sire ID


Twin (Y/N) and twin’s ID

Calf weight

Calving Ease score: 1=unassisted, 2=easy pull, 3=hard pull, 4=C-section, 5=malpresentation

Vigor score: A=vigorous, B=weak but suckling, C=unable to rise or suckle, D=dead



Calf resuscitation:

If a calf is having a difficult time breathing: Drain fluid from mouth, throat, trachea and bronchi by elevating the rear quarters of the calf, lowering the head or even hanging the calf by its hind quarters.  Swinging a calf to clear the airway usually not necessary but may be tried.  Be careful not to give the calf a concussion.  A piece of straw, placed in the nose, will stimulate sneezing to clear the airway. 


An intra-tracheal tube may be placed into the trachea after all fluid is drained.  Stimulate the calf with massage.  Give DOPRAM if the calf is not moving air in the first 2 minutes after birth.  Dopram injectable (Robbins) is used to stimulate respiration in a stressed newborn calf.  Administer 2 or 3 cc I.V. or I.M. in base of tongue.  This should stimulate several deep respiratory efforts in the stressed calf.  If calf is not neurologically impaired and the airway is not obstructed with mucous or aspirated amniotic fluid, the calf should start breathing spontaneously.  May be repeated in 3 to 5 minutes if necessary. 


Oxygen supplementation will also help a stressed calf after a difficult birth.  If a functional Vetspirator is available, it may be used to apply suction and administer oxygen.  If only oxygen is available place a tube up the calves nose and turn the oxygen on.  A welding tip can be places in a loose fitting bag over the calves head and oxygen turned on.  Keep an oxygen bottle fitted with a regulator and tubing in the calving facility.  Industrial oxygen is OK.


Calves that have had serious respiratory difficulty are very susceptible to hypothermia.  Once a calf is breathing it is important to keep it warm. Place it on a heating pad or in a hot box until it acts alert and strong.


Bed the cow and calf on clean straw.  Straw is the preferred bedding for calves and cows as the incidence of umbilical infections, joint-ill, metritis and mastitis is lower than on saw dust or manure pack bedding.



Heifers that will not accept their calf

These heifers are occasionally a difficult problem.  There are several things that can be tried to get an agitated or non-maternal heifer to accept her calf.

1.         Confine to a stall with the calf.  When introducing the heifer to the calf be careful that she does not maul the calf.  Have an escape route for yourself and the calf and place the calf next to that route.

2.         Acepromazine: if the heifer is aggressive towards the calf administer 2 or 3 cc of acepromazine.  Acepromazine will relax the heifer and may stimulate maternal instincts (causes release of prolactin hormone)

3.         Xylazine (Rompun):  If the cow is still hostile towards the calf after acepromazine; give cow 0.25cc of Rompun IM.

4.         Chute: milk some colostrum from the cow (use oxytocin), and allow the calf to suckle.  Use the colostrum that has been milked to assure adequate consumption by the calf.



Neonatal Maladaption

SYMPTOMS:    Inability or no desire to rise and/or suckle post-partum.  Frequently caused by difficult calving resulting in cerebral hypoxia (lack of oxygen during delivery).  Can have permanent damage similar to cerebral palsy in humans.  Other causes include viral infections, such as BVD, contracted while still in the uterus.  These infections can result in atrophy of areas of the brain, limb deformities, cleft palate, mild to severe hydrocephalus, other neurologic defects, circulatory defects, etc.  If signs of maladaption are progressive, it may lead to respiratory failure, convulsions and death.


In general there is no specific treatment unless a diagnosis is made of a treatable condition, such as a bacterial infection, temporary hypoxia or hypothermia.  Supportive therapy is usually all that can be offered. 

A.         Offer oxygen early post-partum to assure adequate oxygenation of the calf. 


B.         Adequate colostrum should be administered in a timely fashion.  A calf should consume about 8 to 10%  (about one gallon) of it's body weight in colostrum in the first 12 hours after birth.  It is best if the calf can be encouraged to suckle the colostrum, as this results in the colostrum being swallowed directly into the fourth stomach.  If unable to make the calf suckle, the calf should be tubed and given colostrum.  The calf should be given 2 pints every 2 or 3 hours during the first 12 hours so that it consumes 1 gallon without overloading the stomach.   NEVER tube feed a calf that is unconscious or lying on its side, place it on its sternum or get it up on its feet.


C.         Maintain the calf's body temperature or re-warm the calf if it is already chilled.  Many times during cold weather a hypothermic calf will act maladapted but be perfectly fine once it is warmed.  Don’t rely on only a heat source to re-warm the calf, it may also need a nutritional energy source also.  The best source of energy is colostrum.  If natural colostrum is not available use one of the colostral substitutes, such as Colostrix or Immuno-36. These products contain abundant sugar and fat that are readily absorbed by the calf as well as providing antibodies that are at least available in the gut if not absorbed as well as colostral antibodies.  Use colostral substitutes in place of natural colostrum for calves that are 2 or more days old.  For newborn calves the substitutes just aren’t as good.  It is excellent for hypothermic and/or malnourished calve though.   If the calf is severely chilled an IV drip will be required.


D.         Once the calf is on it’s feet and doing better you may need to “teach” it how to suckle the cow.  Use a chute or gate to confine the cow.  Use anti-kicking devices on the cow if necessary.  While suckling the calf from a bottle, show it the teat and pray for success.  This can be frustrating but is usually successful if you are gentle and patient.


E.         If the calf will not nurse its mother, continuing suckling the calf on a bottle.  Include cows milk at the rate of 8% of its body weight per day divided into 3 feeding for the first week then 2 feedings per day thereafter.  Continue to try to get the calf to suckle its mother at each feeding.


F.         There aren't any drugs that can be recommended on a routine basis.  Frequently anti-inflammatory drugs such as Banamine are of benefit.  Antibiotics should be used to prevent secondary infections.  Penicillin G at 5cc per day SC is usually adequate.



This outline is presented only as a basis for discussion.  A final plan can be developed based on herd requirements and new products that become available.   


Patrick J. Hemming DVM



Animal Reproductive Technologies


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