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Old 02/13/11, 06:45 PM
Apryl in ND's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: North Dakota
Posts: 303
What did I do wrong with this calf?

In September I bought a dairy bull calf. He was about 10 weeks old I think. Supposedly weaned, but seemed to want to suck on anything. I started him on pasture, grass hay and calf starter. He seemed very healthy. No scours or anything. Then we banded him in October and his sack never fell off. It dried up though. Then after about a month he started swelling up around the band and I could tell it really hurt him. He walked around minimally and always hunched up his back like it hurt. A rancher I know told me not to worry about it, that it was probably a little infected, but they all got that way. Then it got REALLY cold in November. Maybe below zero, and stayed there for a few days. I don't think he was even going to the trough to drink. I found him laying in the barn with one of his entire back legs frozen solid. I put him down.

I'd really like to raise some more calves but, now I'm scared that I will kill them all. That's a lot of money down the toilet. Should I have given him an antibiotic? Was he just too small to be going into a harsh North Dakota winter?? Please help so that I can do this better next time.

I think this year I will make sure that any calves I have are bigger going into winter. I also had him in the same pen as my big heifer and four goats. Maybe I should have had him in a pen by himself? This has left a sour taste in my mouth. Thanks for the help.
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Old 02/13/11, 07:17 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Monroe Ga
Posts: 4,639
Im not cow savvy but when I band goats I cut the dried up sac off about 10 days in. If there is swelling then yes I would have gave an antibiotic, better to waste $1.50 in an antibiotic than to loose a calf. I dont think I would have quite put him down over the leg but it wouldnt have been far off.
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Old 02/13/11, 07:38 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Location: VA
Posts: 1,961
Giving tetanus vacc is a good idea, and a booster 3-4 weeks later which is when you would band him. I think he probably should have had antibiotics once you saw the swelling, but not sure which one...I'd have checked with the vet on that.

I bet there are others here who can suggest what you might have done better, but I admire your willingness to worry about what went wrong and how to do it better next time.
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Old 02/13/11, 07:40 PM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Saskatchewan, Canada
Posts: 827
Well, we don't cut the sack off. They are banded at birth usually and then kicked back out with mama. Of course these are beef calves, but that shouldn't make any difference. The sack should fall off within about 3 weeks to a month. He sounds like he got an infection which should have been treated, probably penicillin would have worked.

The problem with young calves, under say 4-6 months of age is that they do not have a well developed rumen and therefore cannot utilize hay and grass well enough to get the required nutrients out of it. If they are not on a cow, or being fed milk replacer, they NEED something to eat which they can digest easily, in other words, they need grain or a prepared calf ration. I don't know how much calf starter he was getting, but it should be in the range of 2%-3% of body weight, which would be about 5 lbs for a 200 lb calf.

To me it sounds like he either was not getting enough energy (grain) or that he had an ongoing infection of some sort that was drawing on his reserves, or both. If it was an infection, it could have been related to the banding, or it could have been another problem altogether. As far as putting him down, I think you did the right thing. Once the legs freeze, there isn't much you can do to bring them back.

I would treat this as a learning experience, and remember, regardless of who (vet, rancher, other knowledgeable person) is telling you something, use YOUR common sense. If what they say doesn't make sense, don't be afraid to ask them more questions, or to get a second opinion. Better to err on the side of caution.
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Old 02/13/11, 11:26 PM
springvalley's Avatar
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Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Illinois
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Apryl, sorry you lost your calf, soemtimes you loose them. Could your calf have slipped one of his nuts back past the band ? Maybe ? I have never cut off the sack when we band calves, and I never give tetnus shots. A couple shots of Penn. wouldn`t have hurt, but that is 20/20 at this point. > Sorry Marc
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Old 02/14/11, 06:07 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: S.E. Iowa
Posts: 2,541
A rancher told you they all get a little infected?

NOPE. I have never had one get infected from banding. If you think there is a problem, there probably is.
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Old 02/14/11, 08:08 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: So/West Missouri
Posts: 609
I agree with Marc I think you may have let one slip back or it was not desended. That is wrong about the infection we have used bands since early 80's never had a problem also if the sack is cut off it stands to reason you make an entrance for infection.
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Old 02/14/11, 08:16 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Ohio Valley (Southern Ohio)
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Perhaps the band itself was around one testicle, cutting it in half over time. This would also have prevented the blood supply from being totally cut off right away, and would have resulted in a longer "cure rate" (dry up and fall off). If half of the testicle remained inside the calf, there would indeed have been infection.

I've also found that with dairy calves, especially those going through stressful events, like castration or forced weaning (and at 10 weeks, it IS forced weaning), being exposed to any drafty/wet/cold weather can really put an additional strain on their already stressed bodies. Beef calves can handle the weather, but dairy calves cannot, generally speaking, and when stressed, inclement weather is a sure means of calf loss.

When we bring home a calf, we always offer it milk or MR via a bucket. We'd rather be safe than sorry, even if we're told the little guy is completely weaned.
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Old 02/14/11, 10:42 AM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: NW OK
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Sounds like he developed some infection from his bag not drying up and falling off. Could of had other problems to walking around minimally and hunched up, how was his breathing?

Having a testicle up above the band wouldn't cause the problem.
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Old 02/14/11, 03:37 PM
Apryl in ND's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: North Dakota
Posts: 303
I made sure I got both nuts down. I could feel both of them. I was going to give him a tetanus shot at banding too, but my know it all FIL said I didn't need to and was kind of a jerk about it. Now I wish I would've just trusted my own instinct. His breathing sounded fine.

Sounds like I should've been giving him more calf starter than I was. Thanks for all the advice.
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Old 02/15/11, 06:21 PM
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: nebraska
Posts: 1,593
Randy, gave good advice. I give covexin 8 to my calves, it is 7 way with tetanus. That being said I don't believe your calf had tetanus, but an infection and possibly lack of high energy feed. I have had tetanus in pigs and lambs. They will get totally stiff, like a plastic toy, will be sensitive to bright light and loud noises. Terrible symptoms, I never had any luck with saving them. The only people who never lose livestock are the ones who don't have any.
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Old 02/16/11, 11:35 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Oklahoma
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When I get a calf at the stage you did, I generally top dress their grain with MR to provide the nutrients they are in need of. That being said, if an animal's nutritional needs are being met, they are able to fight off more sickness and infection.

I do recommmend tetanus at banding, but I wait until they are about 5-6 months old (provided the testicles are still small enough) and go ahead with a 7-way while they're in the chute. I see better initial growth out of my steer calves if I wait until they're a little older to band or cut.

I also recommend a shot of penicillin or LA-200 (oxytetracycline) anytime the sack don't fall off within 3-4 weeks. My vet explained it to me like this: Give them something preventative to fight infection from foreign parts of the body besides the area of problem. Lots of the time, the area of infection will take care of itself naturally as long as the infection doesn't spread to the blood stream and cause them to become toxic.

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