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Tubing a Calf

5659 Views 10 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  wr
I have a calf I am having to share feeding responsibilities with the cow. She is a Holstein about 18 years old. Last year she raised a calf OK, this year she just doesn't seem to have enough milk to satisfy the calf. When the calf was still shaky (wobbly legged) after ten days old I took it into the vet. He said it wasn't getting enough milk. He was getting enough from the cow to satisfy the hunger pangs and thus didn't want to take the milk replacer like he should. He recommend a three day program of tubing electrolite in the morning and milk replacer in the evening. Calf is off the cow for good so I can monitor intake.

Now, I was squeemish about sticking a tube down the calf's throat so he walked me through it. Really nothing to it. It is a metal tube with a bulb on the throat end. The bulb keeps it from going down the windpipe. Once inside the calf, the plastic bag-type bottle empties by gravity.

They policy was to loan out the tube/bottle with a deposit. I just went ahead and bought it to have on hand in the future.

If I can now tube a calf, anyone can.

Ken S. in WC TN
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That style tube feeder works very well. Besides making it almost impossible to get it down the wrong hole, it's much easier for one person to use. Using a bag with the soft flexible plastic tubing takes three hands.
Jackpine, if you have the flexible bags down to a three hand job, you're very skilled. I just hate tubing and they seem to make a crappy job so much more complicated. I hate tubing so bad that I'll do just about anything to get a bottle to work cause I'm absolutely paranoid that I'm going to kill the calf.
I agree with you WR. Tubing a calf stinks :no: it is no fun at all. I had to call a local farmer to give me the low down on what to do. He said that the main thing people have problems with is not getting the tube down far enough and not making sure you left it in long enough for all the fluid to come out, Just because the bag is enply doesn't mean that it's all gone....
It would appear the ones with the metal tube and bulb are much better than the all plastic ones. I got it down in the right place first try. Vet said it is just about impossible to get it down the windpipe. Cost was $28.50 I think, although I could have rented it for just the deposit. Seems a good investment. The calf is held with your legs around the neck - acting as a stantion.

Ken S. in WC TN
I try to let the calf swallow the tube as it goes down (I never force it down). I also wait a little bit before pulling the tube out to be sure the milk is out of the bottle and tube. One dairy farmer told me that they will cough if the tube gets into their windpipe. If you read the instructions though and don't force it do have to help "feed" it down as they swallow it I think it is a pretty safe procedure. I've tubed about a dozen calves over the years and had great success.
I agree wr, even with the option of the tube style feeder I still prefered to get the calf to drink on it's own. Less stressful on both of us! But when I ran out of time or patience the tube feeder saved some calves.

Did a couple searches and it appears the tube feeder with the ball on the end was developed by Joe Magrath, a Vet in Nebraska. Here's an article written partially by him:

The article talks about different sizes but I've only seen the small ones intended for calves. I found them out on Valley Vet. I guess they make a plastic version as well. The one pictured must be plastic as the tube appears to be flexible. I don't know if that would be as easy to use as the steel tube.
I use the plastic kind. I clamp off the bag, hang it on a nail or something until I'm ready to go.

If you can feel the ball in the left side of the calf's neck, you are in the right spot. I don't mean stop there, but you are in the correct tube.

My husband is so afraid of tubing calves, he will end up with a dead one. I just tube them and get it over with. It's the best way to get something down a sick calf.

Reason I bought the tube is I now realize I might have saved some calves I lost in the past by being about to get some warm milk replacer or electrolyte in them as soon as possible. When you try to force them to suck on a bottle some (sometimes a lot) ends up going down their windpipe instead. The plastic ones with the pointed end tubes made me too squeemish to want to even try.

This calf was tubed at the vet clinic to get some electrolyte in him. Since then he is taking the bottle fine (drinking the full bottle and wanting more). He seems much stronger and had a good brown dump. He did have yellow scours and the vet put down two large bulbus (sp?) there and gave me combination scour/pneunomia medication to squirt into its mouth.

Vet said if he still wanted to nurse after the bottle of electrolyte he could finish toping off with milk replacer. However, if the first was milk replacer, the follow-on should be milk replacer as well.

He seems to be nimbling a bit at calf grower/starter and looks like he drank a bit of water from a tub.

I have now nick-named him 88 Fifth, as that was the vet bill.

Ken S. in WC TN
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We are tube feeding electrolytes to a calf now. We use the plastic tuber with the same method as NRS FARMS. As the calf swallows we ease it in. Our vet told us that it didn't need to go as deep as the tube is long.
Geez, I would hate for anybody to think that I beleive that tubing isn't a good idea or with it's merits. We've saved plenty of calves because we'll tube, it's just one of those jobs that I don't feel competent to handle so I pass it on to hubby or daughter-who's-gonna-be-a-vet. If neither was available, I'd darned sure step up to the plate and handle the job cause I HATE losing calves far worse than I hate icky jobs.
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