Calf is coughing and weak?

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Dec 12, 2016
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I got an orphaned calf about a week ago, they told me he was "a couple weeks old"... so i'm gonna assume he's 3wks. I know he was on his momma about 2 days before she died, and that's about all i know about this little guy. When we first got him he was perky and playful, and now he's just sulky. i feed him Dumor special medicated calf milk replacer, 2qts twice a day. and this morning i just gave him electrolytes. his poop seems fine, a little loose at times but nothing to really worry about i didn't think. Now that's i've got the background out of the way...a few questions..
-he's started to cough/hack, but no runny nose or eyes, he's weak like when he walks he sometimes falls to his knees. is he sick? or not getting enough nutrients? just checked his temp 101.1?
- he isn't taking to the calf starter(also Dumor) and i know he needs to start but i can't get him interested. any pointers you could give would be great..
- lastly, he's small...and i'm not sure how big he should be.

posted pics also!!

Thanks in advance for your advice!!!

I don;t know if that dumore stuff is milk or soy based, if it's soy based you are straving the calf. Calf looks badly malnourished. Find a major brand milk replacer that is milk and milk byproducts no soy. 20% fat and 20% protein as a minimum. The coughing and hacking is probably pneumonia, needs a vet. Or buy a shovel
First off, when you got him at a "couple of weeks" was he still running in the pasture with the other cows after his momma died? If so, part of his problem is loneliness to start. Another problem might be that he was stealing off other cows so was getting real milk. Also, the Dumor milk replacer is okay in a pinch if nothing else is available, UNTIL you can get something better. Get a good ALL MILK milk replacer, and NOT medicated. Purina if nothing else. Where are you located? Do you have a decent feed mill or regular feed store closeby? needs to be 20% protein 20% fat all milk. It will cost $65 to $75 a 50 lb. bag. Also how big is the hole in the end of the nipple?? If you made it bigger then he could be getting milk in his lungs. And if that's part of it, it also has to do with the angle that you are feeding him. You can't hold the bottle up too high. If he was on milk replacer before you got him, what kind? Part of his problem is he has undergone a big change. The dumor seems to go through them coming out looking like grey chalk and I never had any that really did well on it. Try some hay for a start, he may need something more familiar to munch on. Some calves don't start eating much grain before 4-6 weeks and some will dive into it at 2-3 weeks. If he has never had it before, then it might take awhile.
He looks pretty droopy, that could be from being taken from the familiar surroundings too. What breed is he or what crosses ? The coughing/hacking could be from him getting milk into his lungs, it will also make them look pretty sorry while their body is trying to expell it. I don't know without seeing him. If there is any way I would suggest a vet to try to get him diagnosed before he gets too weak. He could also be vit E/selenium deficient. And one thing to watch for is coccidiosis; it usually shows up as some blood in the manure but not always, and they get weak from it. It can kill a calf pretty quick.
Have you ever raised bottle calves before or is this the first? Bottle babies can be tough and this time of year with the weather temps so up and down; they can get sick pretty quick.
All depending on how big he was at birth and the not too good start he got when his momma died, would have alot to do with how big he is.
A shot of draxxin and tube of probiotics to get his guts working.Dumor is soy, get him on some suckle brand at least it's milk based. Free choice sweet feed will be the first feed young calves will go after, then gradually switch over to higher protein. No fever or scours will be best signs to look for.
RanchMan90":3jqxtfaw said:
A shot of draxxin and tube of probiotics to get his guts working.Dumor is soy, get him on some suckle brand at least it's milk based. Free choice sweet feed will be the first feed young calves will go after, then gradually switch over to higher protein. No fever or scours will be best signs to look for.
Milk based but also has soy....third ingredient on list is soy protein concentrate.
Local TSC has 2 offerings of milk replacer from Dumor. One has all milk protein (Ultra, I've had good results with this). The other, Supreme, is soy based protein and a calf will starve. Even the barn cats don't want it.
TSC also has a nurse bucket with a check valve in the nipple base. It's much easier for the calf to nurse and the bucket is easier to keep clean.
The cough and weak makes me worry about pneumonia. Go by your vet and tell him how much the calf weighs and get a shot of Nuflor. I had a similar situation, calf wanted to nurse but was weak and would have to stop and catch his breath. I gave him the shot of Nuflor and he was back nursing the bucket without stopping the next day.
thank you for all the replies! i'll try to answer everything...
yes this is my first calf to try and raise, they really did t tell me much about him other than the cow prolapsed but he was on her for 2 days. i have no clue what breed or cross, and they bottlefed him and i just took the same bag of the milk replacer they were feeding. also there has been no blood in his stool at all. it's just a weird grey chalky color like was said in an above post.
i have read the post about bottle feeding for newbies.
i use the calf pail and i hang it up on the fence for him to drink out of, im going to lower it down and see if that might stop the cough?
the milk replacer i have says medicated milk and soy, but it also says 20% protein and 20% fat? if i need a new milk replacer could someone advise a good brand?
he will eat grass, won't touch the hay, and i've kind of gotten him nibbling on some sweet feed.
Paigep, I won't add much other than say I think your main problem is nutrition as others have suggested and given you good advice. I don't know a lot about calf rearing and especially nothing of the products available to you in the US. I would like to say though I thought you presented your problem well to the forum with some great photos of the calf which has given the members with experience every opportunity to offer you some assistance and you have been given some good advice.

Well done and welcome to CT.

Most all milk replacers are 20/20 but you want to get away from any with soy. Especially when they are so young. The "medicated" is just overkill. I have always been adamant about NOT feeding medication as a matter of course. I don't take drugs to stay healthy, I try to stay healthy and only take something if I get SICK. Alot of the drug stuff was to help prevent problems in animals that were often in more concentrated situations, which yours obviously isn't. After the first of the year you will not be able to get medicated milk replacer except by vet prescription with the upcoming vet feed directive so that will be a moot point.
I think that hanging the milk lower will help. Think about looking at a calf drinking from it's mom. Most all of them have to bend their head down a bit and reach up. The idea is that the angle helps to direct the milk into the throat and stomach and not into the windpipe. And the end of the teat has a "hole" for the milk that is not alot bigger than a big pencil point. So they don't get as much as fast. And with a bottle or nipple bucket, the milk will flow because there is air allowing it to flow faster. So the little bit lower will probably help slow him down a bit too.
If you have a regular feed store/feed mill ask them for an ALL MILK milk replacer. I have used some of tractor supply's in the past in a pinch to get me thru until I can get to my regular feed company. Purina makes some, there are other brands.
The soy based ones often have that grey chalky color. No blood is good.
It sounds like you are really trying to do things right and I commend you for being concerned and trying to fix it as soon as you can.
It sounds like he is advancing a bit if he is trying to nibble on a little feed. The sweetness of the molasses in the sweet feed should help. You might want to find him a buddy as cattle are herd animals and they like company. Poor little guy has had a tough start. I think you will do fine once he gets a little more oriented. Also, make sure he has water available. He may not touch it but many bottle calves will try drinking it and it will help him to not get dehydrated. I would offer it after he has had his milk so that he drinks his milk first.

You didn't say where you are located so don't know about your weather conditions. Looks like he has a shelter and as long as it has some bedding...shavings/hay/straw... so that he has a warmer place to lay and can get out of the wind that is good.
Keep us posted on here as to how he is doing. WELCOME to the forum and I hope we have helped you a little bit.
I just remembered Land o Lakes makes a good milk replacer too. I use the brand our feed company has, they are into more all natural things and only sell all milk milk replacer.
i'm in Cleveland Texas and there are a few local feed stores so i'm going to go by there today to look for a different milk replacer.
he does have water and has been drinking it a little!
also he loves grass, he's always out there grazing, which makes me feel a lot better.
his shelter does have hay in it.

oh and an update! he doesn't cough anymore when he's drinking his milk, now that i've hung it a little lower.
i will post a new thread in a week or so to let you know how he's doing.
thanks so much for all the replies! they have been so helpful and reassuring!
So very glad to hear that lowering the height of the nipple bucket seems to have taken care of the coughing problem. He was probably getting it too fast, and up higher it was getting a little into his lungs. Calves can be "little pigs" when they are getting a bottle. Have had some actually pull the nipple off the bottle when they are in a big rush and want to butt the bottle and pull....

Sounds like you are doing fine with him...and he is doing better too. I think that you will find that the all milk milk replacer will help him to round out a little better. Most all recomendations are to start tapering off and stop the milk replacer by about 8 weeks, but I think that you would be better off feeding him a little longer. I usually feed mine 10-16 weeks, depending on the time of year, and how they are eating. I feed milk longer in the winter to help them keep up their body condition, and the warm milk is like a cup of hot cocoa or coffee is to us on a cold day. Usually I cut back to one bottle a day after about 8-10 weeks and do once a day for 2-4 weeks. Just make sure he is eating grain good. About 2-3 lbs a day by the time you take him off milk completely.
Let's face it, they stay on their momma's until they are 5-7 months old under normal conditions and even though the milk consumption lessens as they are eating more grass/hay etc., they are still getting that extra from the milk until they are in the 400-600 lb range. It can get expensive so that is one reason most places try to stop it earlier and it is less work to feed grain than milk.
Keep us posted...

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