FYI on a Calf illness we were ignorant of

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by OUVickie, Mar 28, 2004.

  1. OUVickie

    OUVickie Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Just thought I'd pass this along in case it can help anyone else.

    The newborn calf I posted about week before last that was kept from his mom for 10 hours, by our horse, died on us this past Thursday evening.
    Apparently if they don't get that ever important colostrum within about 2 hours of birth they can end up with an infection of the umbilical cord area that travels through their blood stream and gets into their joints. The symptoms are: lack of weight gain, lethargy, swollen joints and eventually they get lame and can't move around well. The vet called it ill joint syndrome.
    By the time I got to a vet who knew what the symptoms were it was too late. The calf was only a week old and had been limping for 2 days. He told us once it gets into their joints it's a toss up as to whether they recover. Ours didn't and it was very sad to watch a beautiful baby angus die such a needless death.

    Anyway, we learned a hard lesson that, hopefully, no one else will have to go through.
    Also, we now a have an over-zealous Cutting horse that hubby decided he needs to sell.
     
  2. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    Sorry about the loss of your baby. :(

    This is why it's also a good idea to dip the umbilical cord in an iodine solution.

    I believe even animals that nurse normally sometimes develop joint ill if bacteria gets into their system via the cord ... obviously the mother's antibodies provide some protection, but I don't think it's a 100 percent thing.

    So don't blame yourselves (or the horse!) too much; you might have lost the little guy anyway.

    I think it's actually better if they go right away with joint ill; I remember reading about a woman who spent thousands of dollars trying to save a foal ... as it began to grow, it developed arthritis-type problems in its comprised joints, and after struggling to keep it alive, she ended up having to put it down. :(
     

  3. OUVickie

    OUVickie Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks for the information about the iodine. We'll keep that in mind for next year. Unfortunately this was our only calf for the season the other two heifers apparently didn't get pregnant.

    I had called two other ranchers the first day I noticed the limp and told them the symptoms but neither mentioned this illness. One actually told me he probably got stepped on and not to worry about it. Two other vets I called never mentioned this illness and didn't have time to come out. Like any other owner you can't help feeling guilty a little, but we're new at this so there's no way we could have known. We do now!

    As for the horse, he's an excellent cutting horse with a champion line through his father, but my husband has no time to spend with him because of the hours he works and he's thrown him twice. The horse just needs a working cowboy who has a use for him. :yeeha:
    He obviously thought he was doing his job. We don't need to keep a horse who would be happier working, especially when we could spend the money on a tractor and be less the feed bill for him.
    I just hope our experience can keep someone else from losing a calf.
     
  4. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    Technically the name is either navel ill or joint ill. I have not heard of it associated with a lack of colostrum before and calves really aren't that susceptible to it from my knowledge. Being born on clear pasture should have been fine.

    This use to be more predominent in what are what were called the 'goiter belt' states roughly from the Great Lakes States going westward along the U.S./Canadian border. Soil there is naturally deficient in iodine, which is a cause of goiter and joint ill. That is one reason you see iodine added to table salt and livestock salt. Once that was done, goiter and joint ill dropped dramatically. (For people, importing vegetables from other areas also helped.)

    Ken S. in WC TN
     
  5. Jackpine Savage

    Jackpine Savage Well-Known Member

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    I've always dipped with iodine. It's also important to have a calving area that is high and dry. If the calf starts out laying in the mud it's easy for bugs to travel up the umbilical cord. The calf also ingests it from laying in the mud or sucking on a muddy teat.
     
  6. OUVickie

    OUVickie Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yeah, Ken, that's what the vet called it "joint ill".
    Here's what I think happened:
    About an hour after he was born the horse discovered him and wouldn't let Mama near him. The next morning - about 9-10 hours later - we discovered him laying down by the pond, horse still standing over him. I believe that's when it happened. He was weak and cold because Mama hadn't been able to get to him and finish drying him off and such. Also, he hadn't had his first suck. Considering he was laying down I'm sure he was probably exposed then to the bacteria in the soil and hadn't yet had the colostrum in his system. It probably happened VERY early on, considering he was only 8 days old when he died. When I think back on it he started acting kind of lethargic after about 4 days.
    He had every symptom the vet named off, the problem was he was already down by the time we figured out what was up and the anti-biotic just didn't do him much good by that time.
    At least now I'll know to what to watch for. Actually I tried telling hubby the first day he started limping that something was wrong, but I'm just a woman, so I don't always get listened to. All those he-man ranchers just thought I was being a worry wart!
    Next time I'll take care of things myself when my intuition starts nagging me.
     
  7. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

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    By all means! After four years here, I can tell if one of my own animals is "off" just by looking ... it's just a sense you get from watching them closely over time.

    It's a little harder on the farm where I work, because there are so many cows, it's harder to be familiar with each one ...

    With babies, a good way to check condition is to stick a (clean) finger into the mouth ... should be warm and moist ... cold and/or dry is a big warning sign something is wrong.
     
  8. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    Your intuition is the first line of defense for your calves. Don't doubt it!

    If they look "off", investigate further. Do not delay, as calves can die very quickly. Learn what the common illnesses are and how to recognize and treat them. Scours, pnuemonia, and yes...navel ill.

    I have never, ever dipped an umbilical cord on anything. I have never had anything get an infected navel, but I do know what to look for and if a newborn gets sick, that's one of the first things I think of.

    If you have an "off" calf, but don't know what the problem is, ask questions!

    Just for the record...an "off" calf is droopy. Ears/head down, laying in the same place all day, eyes are not clear and bright, coat not all silky clean, breathing heavy, looking worried (yes, they look worried when they are sick).

    I lost lots of calves because I didn't trust my own instincts and let my husband tell me to "wait and see". I don't even tell him anymore if I think there's a problem, I just take care of it.

    Jena
     
  9. OUVickie

    OUVickie Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I agree Ladies. Somehow I think we must just know when animals or children just don't seem to feel well. From now on I WILL take it upon myself to take care of it. I think I get irritated because I feel like I'm the only one that pays attention.
    I'll warn you, now I'm just venting frustration. I get tired of being the only one who seems concerned when the animals don't look or act right. But, I didn't get hateful and say what I was thinking, I just offered my help. Then when it was over and the calf died I "suggested" that maybe the next time (which will be next year) we pen the horse up or pen the Mom up to safeguard the calf. Hubby made the decision, on his own, to sell his horse. Although, at the moment he's still here.
    I have to say we had another problem the same day the limp came on. We had an injured Rotweiller "appear" in our shed. I think someone must have dumped him. I called the neighbors and no one owned him, then I called the sheriff and they wouldn't do anything because they said they couldn't. So, in my husband's defense I think he believed the dog may have injured the calf. Unfortunately, we do not have the money to take care of everyone's stray and Hubby had to shoot him because he was too injured to move. So, he had a horrible week, at home and at work and I sure didn't want to add to it by discussing the reason the calf died.
    Thanks for all the suggestions. I value everyone's experience and help. And thanks for encouraging me and letting me vent my sorrow and frustration. :)