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Ditches in Pasture

LEORAEVER

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Hi folks ,I'm new to the forum and this is my first question. What's your opinion on ditches in pasture, their design, should they be fenced off. I lost 3 calves this past week, found them in a ditch about 80 feet apart. This is a small ditches I dug 2 years ago with the backhoe, about 18 inches wide, no more than 24 inches deep. These calves are not newborn, they were approx. 250lbs.
I am not convinced it was the ditch at fault, no signs of a struggle from either calf. I don't uderstand, am just sick about it. Any reponse will be appreciated..

Regards LEORAEVER. southeastern NC
 

Jim62

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I would doubt that the ditch is your culprit.

That being said, a ditch of those dimensions in a pasture just sounds to me like an accident waiting to happen.
 

Bandsaw

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Leoraever, :welcome: I would be pretty skeptical that the ditches you describe are at fault. I would be wondering if the calves perhaps had a high temperature and got in the ditch because it is cool there. Not diagnosing here, but last year this area had a round of a form of bluetongue in the deer herd. We saw a lot of deer carcasses near water, where they went because of a raging temperature. I understand some cow herds also exhibited symptoms, though it was originally believed this particular strain was unlikely to pass from deer to cattle. Death in deer is rapid, but I think most cattle recovered. I would think 250 lb calves would be at risk. Likely your problem is not this, but I bet you have had some calves with a temp.
 

novatech

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Assuming the ditches are tapered on the sides I would hardly expect there to be a problem. We did loose some to a newly dug ditch a pipeline company put in years ago. But they had straight sides. My present pasture has all sorts of gullies and washouts that seeming may pose a problem but have never had one.
I would take a dead calf to the vet and have it checked out.
 

LEORAEVER

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Folks,

Thanks for the replys, I stopped and talked to the local vet, he seems to thinks it may have been something they ingested. I going to have the hay checked for nitrate levels. Since the progress of decomp was so far along, having the calves checked was out.
LEORAEVER
 

Bandsaw

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We ammoniated our lower quality hay for several years. A few years ago, We had fed hay all winter. When we started having calves in March, We had some calves start acting nutty at about a week old, and would die real quickly. We lost four or five calves real quick. Lab found nothing. We figured out it was "Crazy Cow Syndrome" caused by a chemical produced when we ammoniated hay that was too high in quality. We never had another incident after we pulled that hay. The chemical level was low enough it didn't affect the cows, but concentrated in the milk, and affected the calves. We ceased ammoniating any hay. You might google "crazy cow syndrome" and see if anything there applies to your situation with the nitrates.
 

RanchManager

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It is unlikely that all three cast themselves in one night, but possible. Since they are small animals, if they died in a normal lying position, you have some disease at work and they liked the feel/temperature of the ditch for some reason and thus died there. If you found them with their legs up toward the edge of the ditch and it looks like they struggled some, then they probably cast temsleves and they suffocated under their own weight.

Tapered sides or not it takes very little ditch to get a bovine cast. If a cow so much as lays down with her legs pointed uphill, she will have trouble getting up and I've found them where they didn't, from just a hillside. Any sort of ditch that puts her legs higher than her belly and her center of gravity towards her spine and her rumen puts pressure on her lungs and she suffocates quickly (15 minutes). It doesn't take much of a hole or ditch to accomlish this. You would be amazed. Half of the time our cows are on flood irrigated pasture that is criss-crossed with ditches. We loose one or two a year that layed down too close to the edge of one and slid ever so slightly down, backwards. It doesn't take much and you usually find them dead or about to die. It sounds crazy if you havn't seen it. It happens so fast and easy it will make you paranoid about any depression. Cows will naturally avoid getting in positions where their feet can get above their body level.
 

BeefmasterB

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LEORAEVER":2dnjj5cz said:
Folks,

Thanks for the replys, I stopped and talked to the local vet, he seems to thinks it may have been something they ingested. I going to have the hay checked for nitrate levels. Since the progress of decomp was so far along, having the calves checked was out.
LEORAEVER

I too was wondering if maybe they might have drunk some runoff that drained into the ditches that might have been tainted.
 

Caustic Burno

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See if the legs under the skin feel like frito's, if so you have blackleg, those calves sound like they had a fever and were looking for a cool spot.
 

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