Sickly (and dying!) yearlings

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JGH

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We have been raising bottle calves and this "older" batch is 4-8 months old. We have (had!) about 9 (now 7) that look pretty bad. We wormed them (injection + drench from the vet) about 10 days ago, probably quite a bit later than we should have, as I am figuring they were quite wormy. Two mornings ago, one of them--4 month old Jersey bull-- was lying dead by the feed trough. He was up and eating the night before, but skinny. Next morning, 4 month old Jersey heifer also dead. All others are Holstein mix. Several look very sickly. They have hay + crushed feed every day. They also seem to be losing their appetites. We are NOT novice bottle-calf raisers, and we have never experienced anything quite like this. Thanks for help and advice.
 

branguscowgirl

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Sounds like some blood work and stool cultures are needed, before you loose them all.
Good luck, and let us know what you find out.
 

Nesikep

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Any diarrhea or any other signs? Toxic plants or other stuff they could be getting into? I'm with branguccowgirl on suggestions.. Anything we can say here is just guesswork.

Take their temperature if you can, that's a good start and something you might be able to do yourself
 

Lucky_P

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It's almost a certainty that something else is going with this group of calves.
We almost never see 'worms' killing cattle - not even calves. Impact on performance, yes, but death...no.

The most common things happen most often.
You've stated that they look sickly/skinny. May need to evaluate your feeding program.
You can feed your way through a parasite problem, but you can't deworm your way out of an energy/nutritional deficit.
4-month old calves still don't have the rumen function & capacity to get a whole lot of what they need from hay...may need more in the way of energy/protein supplementation.

If nothing else, you probably need to get a fresh-dead one or one that's 'circling the drain' to your veterinarian or the nearest diagnostic lab for a necropsy exam.
 
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JGH

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Thanks for the feedback, friends. No diarrhea. But I notice that their manure smells funny--like dead fish! We've been getting some feed from a neighbor who gets it from an area feed mill (just started doing this a couple of months ago)--so it's a mixture of things and not like the bagged variety with nutritional info on the side. However, until we got that feed and now (since we have run out of the feed) they get All Stock, "sweet feed," etc. We have really tried to give these calves a healthy diet. They are in a small pasture, one where we always get out calves started, so there should not be anything toxic here. Looks like we may load them up and haul them to the vet next week. But if someone thinks of something else, please post. If we find out something, I will let you know. Thanks so much.
 

Howdyjabo

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I have a feeling that the feed is not right. "sweet feed" is never good. And most All Stocks are just good for bait feed.
 

Lucky_P

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Agree, jabo.
Most of those 'All-Stock' feeds are not suitable for growing animals...protein level too low to support good growth, and I've seen some pretty severe cases of rickets, pelvic and long-bone fractures in calves raised on them - the Ca/P ratios are not right for proper bone development. When they get up to about 400 lbs, they start breaking bones.
Yeah, those feeds are cheaper than a good, properly-formulated 'grower' ration, but it's false economy.
 
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JGH

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Hello, cattle-raising friends. I wanted to check in with an update for you all. This honest feedback is embarrassing--esp. since we are not new to this business. But our main experience has been in North Alabama--a very, very different environment for raising calves than East Texas! We have since lost one more, and two more were down--could not get up. (Those 2 are at vets in "recovery.") Here's why we lost them: 1. Weak (yes--totally our fault!), and 2. DOGS--They had been attacked by dogs, and we don't yet know which dogs--but not coyotes or big dogs. Likely, had they been healthier, they would have been ok--either could have escaped or would not have been targeted in the first place. They were in the small pasture just behind the house, too. Now, they are shut up in small corral under a shed every night. Next step: game cameras and a detective "stake out," I hope. Big thanks, esp. to Jabo and Lucky_P re:protein content of the feed. We truly thought we were ok on that. Trip to vet also gave us that info. I am so sorry our yearlings have suffered due to our ignorance :(. So now, if you have read this much-too-long post, can you offer brands of higher protein feed? We are on the search for that! Thanks again.
 

Howdyjabo

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Look for a tag that has a higher fat and lower fiber content. They are your best feeds. Make sure your hay or pasture are adequate too.
 

branguscowgirl

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Dogs!? Any blood or signs of a struggle?
The feed store should have something labeled as a "calf grower" type feed.

BTW What do you all think about "Calf Manna"?
 

milkmaid

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Purina feed is usually good. If you have good hay (quality alfalfa) you can feed corn or barley and they'll grow fine.

Depending on weight, you'll probably feed grain at 2% of body weight until they're over 400 lbs. The group you have now will probably need grain and good hay to get to an appropriate body condition score regardless of their weight.
 

Lucky_P

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Agreed.
I usually fed a Purina calf-starter ration, and once they were weaned and eating well, switched 'em over to a more-affordable Southern States or Farmer's Co-op stocker/grower ration with 14-16% CP. But, I've run across some of those that weren't well-accepted; gotta be something they'll eat readily.
 
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JGH

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Yes, we are looking at ingredient tags for CP %. We have used Calf Manna but definitely did not keep them on it long enough--switched to the low protein stuff, not realizing how much protein they really need to do well. We generally buy bermuda grass hay that we find locally. And regarding blood and signs of struggle--oh, yeah. The one that was killed had been gnawed on and the two that were down had bite marks; definite struggle with one before dog(s) got him down. (Vet said it was dogs, esp. since they were not consumed, as big cat (mountain lion--not super common here), or coyotes (plenty of those!) would do. They have been at vet's five days. Vet did not return my call on Friday regarding condition. I will call again tomorrow b/c we hope they are alive, able to get up on their own, and we can bring them home. Next on the list is to go find game cameras, etc. Thanks to you all. This is a great site. I am learning a lot!
 

greybeard

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branguscowgirl":2g7ayqqm said:
Dogs!? Any blood or signs of a struggle?
The feed store should have something labeled as a "calf grower" type feed.

BTW What do you all think about "Calf Manna"?
I've used it, but have found about 1/2 my calves won't eat it unless mixed with their creep feed, so I just mixed it about 1/4 Manna :3/4 good creep. Maybe not that much Calf Manna in the mix.
As far as starter and a grower, I usually use MG Calf Builder and MG creep (you may not have it in Calif) 14% protein-3.5% crude fat. I don't remember what the rest of the specs are on it. I've got their feed booklet here somewhere tho.

I like Nutrena and their stocker grower too, but it has a lower fat content.
 

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