On the ground: Health protocols for newborn calves | TSLN.com

On the ground: Health protocols for newborn calves

By Deanna Nelson-Licking

This newborn calf waited out a blizzard under a soapweed. Photo by Deanna Nelson-Licking.

Russ Finney, a Mullen, Nebraska area rancher, was having troubles with enterotoxemia– overeating disease–in his young calves. He talked to his veterinarian and implemented a change to his basic birth protocol. For the last twenty years he has given all the calves a shot of Alpha-7 in addition to the being tagged with the cow's number, and for the past few years he has given a MultiMin shot that has dramatically decreased the cases of scours. "I feel the Alpha-7 has really helped with the problems we were having with entroximina and it is well worth the time and expense." Finney said. 

Brownlee, Nebraska rancher Craig Miles also gives a shot of Alpha-7 at birth for the same reason. "We always seemed to have trouble with calves eating sand or from enterotoxemia. The Alpha-7 shot has been very helpful as a preventive measure which helps cut down on antibiotic use later on. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." 

Jason Hoffman of the Hoffman Ranch in Thedford, Nebraska is very involved in the first few hours of life for the purebred cattle he raises. "We weigh all the calves, they are given a dose of microbial paste, MultiMin, Enforce 3 and a 7-way shot, along with ear tags." 

Brad and Shawna Roghair of Roghair Angus Ranch Enterprises in Okaton, South Dakota raise registered cattle so all the calves are weighed at birth and ID tagged. They also administer MultiMin and have seen increased health in the calves since implementation. "Historically we have also given Alpha 7 and Vitamin A and D. but due to long lasting lumps at the injection sites and no noticeable difference in health, we are considering giving up those shots." said Shawna. 

Many other ranchers believe that the best method is as "little human contact as possible." Calves on some of these places are raised with no vaccinations at all and can be marketed as all-natural beef. These calves might not even have an ear tag and are only handled if sick. Other operations give shots at branding and again in the fall for preconditioning. 

Brigham Scott, D.V.M of Cow Country Vet Clinic in Thedford, Nebraska, recommends individuals working with their veterinarians to find what is best for each situation and not to use a blanket approach. "I feel that if ranchers are going to do anything, the best thing to do for the calves would be a shot of MultiMin to boost health, but that for the most part giving everything a 7-way shot (at birth) is a waste of money." Scott said. "It's better to vaccinate the cows before calving and the only calves that might need more of an immune boost from a 7-way shot would be the calves from the first calf heifers and maybe the old cows. Producers should make sure the calves get colostrum and in most cases that is sufficient for health and survival." 

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Scott believes ranchers should keep a close eye on new calves and address any health issues immediately, but not to over-doctor healthy calves. He said that results of administering MultiMin have been proven to be long lasting, even helping calves to utilize preconditioning shots months later. 

Preventive measures are becoming more important as the new regulations are implemented regarding the use of medicated feed and antibiotics in animals. DBC Ag Products has developed a line of all-natural immune and digestive support products that offer options for helping newborn beef and dairy calves. "Our goal at DBC Ag Products is to develop and deliver innovative all-natural solutions that target intestinal health to overcome animal agriculture's toughest challenges." said David Mathes, director, sales and marketing. 

First Arrival w/Encrypt calf paste contains organic acids, essential oils, whey proteins, egg protein, micro-encapsulated beneficial bacteria among other all-natural vitamins and compounds blended to help the intestinal health in calves. First Arrival w/Encrypt is available in a powder form to mix with milk replacer or milk and also as a paste for oral use. It is formulated to help calves during times of stress and intestinal challenges. 

Another DBC Ag product is all-natural Last Stand w/ImmWave given to sick dairy and beef calves to help promote a healthy digestive tract and help maintain a functioning immune system. 

As always, it’s important to have a working relationship with a trusted veterinarian to make sure you’re spending money where it makes the most sense.  

Ranchers’ main products are calves and most of them get one paycheck per year, so taking care of new calves is one of the most important things they can do.  

Regardless of what protocol a ranch uses, everyone agrees that the most important key for immediate and future health of newborn calves is a good dose of colostrum.