mysterious illness on calf

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Aug 30, 2006
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I am poking at everyones experience with this one-- Had a healthy calf at 3 weeks old one day started to get up on his knuckles then fall over, he did get up to drink and then the next day couldnt get up to drink. called vet out after physical exam lungs were fine, temp fine, guts moving like they should. she said they only thing she could think of would be a vitamin e/selenium deficiency and she had hoped we caught it in time since he could not get up. he ended up dying the next day.
Now, another calf which came from the same farm (not born on ours) just showed signs this morning of slow getting up, and got up on his knuckles, after a few minutes did complete his standing and ate fine. no temp. I went ahead and gave him a shot of vitamin e/selenium but I am wondering if maybe i should be looking at another cause. ANY IDEAS?????
Yes, I would be looking at other causes. Being only 3 weeks old, they are awfully young. What are you feeding them?
I am feeding a medicated milk replacer and they have a medicated 18% calf starter feed (which I am not sure if he eats it yet) he is in a pen with 2 other calves.
I have been looking into maybe a vitamin A/D deficiency but not sure if I am looking into the wrong direction and with the vet not really knowing what else it could be I am at a loss with this one. Hoping someone out there has had this problem and/of knows what it is. (I have not given any shots for vitamin A/D def. yet)
When the calves get sick do they continue to take their milk as usual ? What is the temp reading ?

larryshoat":23jq5kj9 said:
When the calves get sick do they continue to take their milk as usual ? What is the temp reading ?


They take their milk just fine, very healthy eaters, temp 101.5.
its starts the same in each calf slow getting up, looks like they are weak, get up on front elbows eventually making it to feet. sometimes they will be laying on head with butt straight up in air.
Vet just called they are also not sure what it is because my whole herd already received vitamin E/selenium injections. they said they were going to do some research and give me a call back.
All in ALl in takes them 3 days to die. by tomorrow he either may get up on his feet to eat or eat lying down. they never lose their appetites. by the third day they are moving their legs around while laying on the ground still alert by then they stop breathing.
Whats scary about all this is that even as of right now my vet does not know what it is, we are just kinda using him as a pin cushion and seeing if anything helps until they research it.
The only knuckle walker I had was a newborn that never got up no matter how much he tried. Tube fed him but he died a couple days later.
update: vet wanted to come back out last night because they still think it is something to do with the weather and he needed more energy. The calf was laying against the cold barn concrete wall and his water bucket, his temp was 94.4 vet only gave the calf a 50% chance for him to make it because of this temp. instead of giving him the dextrose in an IV she made him drink it plus a bottle of his milk. we had to help him get up(very weak again) but he did get up to stand. Vet told me to start him on three feedings. I got his temp last night at 10 up to 97.7 and just like the vet thought he started to scour. this morning feeding temp was back down to 95.5. he tried to get up several times to get to his bottle after seeing him fall over each time I got him up on his feet and he walked over to eat he stood for over 2 hours didnt really walk much though , He ate 3/4 of his afternoon bottle and his temp is unchanged but I was hoping he would be warmer after laying warmed up blankets on him. no luck.
Still he survives on his own luck but no one really can really tell me what is causing this and if he will get over it
I think your calves are dehydrated . I would give lactated ringers (warm it up first) under the skin in the neck 1000 ml 3 times a day for a couple of days , continue with feeding milk 12 hours apart, offer electrolytes at noon and bedtime .Usually I like to think at 3 weeks we are over the scours, but I think that is what is wrong here . What kind of milk are you useing ?

its a medicated milk replacer, vet checked that too but said everything was fine vitamin and mineral wise. Vet said no dehydration but we are feeding 3 times a day. The scours are from him getting to internally cold and then vet said when he would warm up more than likely he would get the scours.
I took a salamander heater out to barn let it blow on him for a half an hour. I still have evening feeding to do with him I will check his temp again then,
mystery74":1vih8oac said:
I took a salamander heater out to barn let it blow on him for a half an hour. I still have evening feeding to do with him I will check his temp again then,

Any chance you could hook-up a heat lamp? Good luck with him and continue with the updates. I'd be curious to knopw if the vets figure this out and what it is.

Went out to barn 9:00 pm last night to do a third feeding for all the calves, the sick one was laying there didnt want to get up to eat or even hold his head up. He will be dead by morning and I have a vet scheduled to come out to open him up and see what the heck is going on.
Another calf next stall over 2 weeks old stumbled when he got up to eat. That is the first sign of this illness. hopefully it was just a stubble but I havent been real lucky lately.

All these calves are healthy calves starting out. playful, eat well, they walk around and then just one day they stumble while getting up and then progress to getting up on knuckle then feet then not being able to get up at all. They all continue to eat well through this although the day the start to get it they start to lose weight. Most of the calves have held normal temperatures and lung sounds throughout the entire illness. I will post in morning with an update hopefully soon we can figure this out before I lose another calf.
I have been raising cattle for almost 8years and before this year I only lost 1 calf and that was because of a bad case of pneumonia. Now this year if that calf is dead in the morning I will have lost 4 due to a unknown disease.
While you are waiting to find a definitive answer if you have one with any symptoms give them 2 litres of electrolytes with a dose of B12 in the them if you have to.

Btw too much selenium can give the same symptoms as not enough so double check that they are not receiving it in their milk as well as in their minerals.

Good luck I know what it's like to fight a losing battle.
Update: saturday thought I would find him dead for morning feeding, NO he is down and looks to be paralyized, still can follow with eyes and lick air, but no suckig power to drink from bottle although he tries. Tubed him have him on 2 feedings of milk twice a day morning and night and 2 feedings of electrolytes to keep him from getting dehrydrated. temp still cold 97.7.
Still has scours and he is still urinating.
Sunday--still alive and follows everyone walking in and out with his eyes. still has bowel movement and urination. he keeps his head back and if you try and move him he pulls away like he is in pain in the stomach area.
temp 98.0 still have him on every 3 hours rotation feedings I was hoping to here from the vet that maybe they know what it is and can fix him. I figure all I am spending is time now so if he wants to hang on I will keep feeding him.
We did turn him to the other side this morning also
what about a naval infection? as a cause? never dealt with one before. he is a 2-3 weeks with dried up umbillical cord still attached. still trying myself to find a cure??
and if so what is the treatment??
Hate to sound harsh but if calf isn't doing better and you've lost 3 already i'd call vet to do autopsy.I'f there is something killing your calves you'd best be doing something before you don't have any left.Just my 2 cents.
Have you give anything for the scours? We have had the most luck with "Biosol". We get them to swollow it. Then we try to get electrolytes down them as often as possible. We had a bad problem with scours about 3 years ago and if we didn't catch the calf and give it medicine before his bowels turned to thick liquid, it would die within a couple of days. They wouldn't look dehydrated and would nurse the cow. Then all of a sudden they would be too weak to move. Good Luck