View Full Version : Help with our calves please

Tui Ridge
4th April 2011, 11:58 AM
Please bear with me - i'm a novice with all things 'farm' related [:p]

Back in Nov last year we got 6 weaner calves - lowline angus x jersey - 3 heifers and 3 steers. I'm satisfied that they are what they are meant to be and they'd had colostrum and the appropriate drenches etc for their age.

They did however seem very young - the 3 boys in particular were (i think) only 11-12 weeks old [:(] - we didn't realise at the time that we really should have got older calves.

Anyway - i'm not happy with their health - the littlest one is still tiny and looks like a baby - just doesn't seem to be growing well.

They all look reasonable healthy - shiny coat, clear eyes, pooing normally etc. but they all get very bloated quite regularly :confused:

An experienced farmer told us they just needed better quality grass, but we don't have that - just the pasture that is here and plenty of it.

So, what can I do to improve their health and stop the bloating? supplements, extra feed - what sort? do I need to get a Vet to check them - could it be worms?

They are very sweet friendly little beasts and I don't like seeing them uncomfortable and not thriving but I don't know what to do about it :o

4th April 2011, 12:15 PM
Hi, TR
they might have gotten to a bad start by the previous owners, for which there could be several reasons: only little colostrum, or colostrum late in the process, not enough milk, weaned too early, no proper introduction of hay and chaff before weaning, etc. You write they got the appropriate drenches before you got them - have you drenched them since? if you have 'bad quality' grass, supplements could be one answer. Do they have a lick for minerals? That might also take care of the bloating. if you dont' want to go chemical, there's always the natural salt lick. ask at Wrightsons. Have you considered introducing cider vinegar to their diet? Also comes in garlic, or honey garlic for additional gooddies. google Redwood cider vinegar for supplier. If you don't mind chemical intervention, then by all means ask your vet. Perhaps you could get him to do a blood test on the one that thrives the least, that could give you an indication what they are missing.

Good luck

Tui Ridge
4th April 2011, 12:33 PM
I suspect mainly weaned too early as the girls who were 4-6 weeks older are doing much better - its only the littlest one thats really not growing much.

I have apple cider vinegar so i'll chuck some of that in their trough (its a double trough shared with the sheep in the next paddock - I presume it won't hurt them)

I also have some Agrisea animal health tonic so i'll give them some of that a couple of weeks after the ACV. They have a mineral block as well.

We haven't drenched them - the guy we got them from said he'd come back and do it when they were due and he never did, hubby was supposed to chase him - I guess we got too busy over summer - so that will be the next step.

4th April 2011, 12:45 PM
You might want to check the littlest one for BVD as well. The vet can do the blood tests. If they've been wormed and have all had the same feed, then there's something specifically different with that particular animal. It may also be that he's just genetically smaller than the other 2 steers. In which case, his size is quite natural and as long as he's healthy, he'll be fine. He'll just always be smaller. Some induced calves seem to be stunted and don't reach their full potential. Twin calves are usually smaller than other calves their own age as well.

So if you're worried, by all means, get them checked out by a vet. It'll put your mind at ease and if something is out of sorts, the vet can advise you how to remedy the problem. Its always handy to have a multi-mineral lick block available for animals to use. Particularly if your pasture is mainly Kikuyu, as there is very little salt in that variety of grass. So they need the supplement, in order to have a healthy diet.

4th April 2011, 01:30 PM
I had some weaners that were similar. We are newbies as well. I felt that they were not thriving and they seemed almost lethargic and quite potty round the belly. Like lollipops they were! Anyway, I thought about it and also did some research and what I did was this.

I shifted them into another paddock that is quite large and has only had 3 goats grazing on it mostly since about Sept last year. Then I drenched them all. Then I started supplementing them, the same thing I do for my goats (so no extra work or expense really). They got a big pot of boiled barley mixed with some lucerne chaff and some calf meal (4 of them). For the first few days I also put a big dollop of molasses in with this as well. Did this every day for about 3 weeks, then every second day and then every so often and now not at all. I do make sure there is always fresh hay out there as well. Even though there is plenty of grazing I was advised that the hay was good for the rumen development??

Anyway I am now very pleased with them. They are bright eyed and bushy tailed with loads of energy. I love to see them galloping across the paddock, a big change for them. I think that I probably stopped giving them the calf meal too early and they were not efficient enough at extracting the nutrients from the grass?? Not sure but they are all good now.

I also think that it takes more experience than what I had to spot a wormy calf. To me all weaners look quite round and bloated and I think you need to be able to look at other indicators to get this right. Or get an FEC done by the vet! Good luck and I am sure you will be fine.

4th April 2011, 01:31 PM
... but they all get very bloated quite regularly :confused:

An experienced farmer told us they just needed better quality grass, but we don't have that - just the pasture that is here and plenty of it....Quantity of grass will not replace quality. If by having plenty you mean that there's lots of grass and it's long, it may be that it has lost much of its quality in maturity. To make better quality grass for young animals, you may need to cut what's there and allow for new growth.

As very young calves they will also need support to cope with internal parasites, usually drench, unless you plan some other animal health management method.

A calf which still looks like a baby sounds like it just hasn't enough resources to develop. Your calves would probably benefit from supplements usually used for early-weaned dairy-sourced calves like Mooslie (sp?) or any of the high protein bagged pasture-based supplements. (If you do give them a new type of feed, introduce it slowly - a handful each to start with, add another a couple of days later, and so on.)

Can you take and post pictures, of calves and pasture?

4th April 2011, 02:56 PM
To me all weaners look quite round and bloated

They don't have to be round and bloated-only if they have not been fed enough of the right food at an early age!

We have discussed these type of calves before, unfortunately early weaned calves that have not had enough milk get to look like this. The answer from some is that they get lots of grass and hay and concentrates early to 'encourage' rumen development. What develops is a big gut! Given time, some good nutritious feed as suggested by others and a regular worming progrmme then they will eventually outgrow their gut.

Beware the difference betwe 'bloat' and just a big belly-they have two different causes ad one is more life threatening than the other.

With the calves being Lowline/Jersey crosses they are always going to be quite small creatures, so the difference between being small and stunted has to be taken into account too!

4th April 2011, 07:05 PM
If i was Looking after these calves one i would look at what they are eating good grren grass a bit of roughage (hay or straw) be in mine move them every couple of days first. the hay or straw will get the stomac working affectivly and make the acid (good Acids) work this help the calves digest food better pictulary i have found when bloating or what looks like bloating appears. I have also notice over the years that a full cattle beast or calve dont seem to bloat when they are alway on grass and never restricted or starved and the diet is they same. This could also be comletmented by molassas togather with roughage do wounders. Now I would in this time be taking samples to the vet to get worm counts done and look at using if recommanded by your vet is ecispls this has bee very affective. ( i also have to stay and this may not be the case: but dont take pitty on those ugly looking calves that should not be anywhere near sale yard or for that matter be in the public eye, please leave them unless you are very experaince as they will alway be a bad investment if you are unsure of what can be done)

Althea from Middelmost
5th April 2011, 04:38 PM
Jersey X ... hmmm ... an early weaning from milk ... solids perhaps not introduced slowly (in other words, milk one day - out in the paddock the next) ... probable lack of drenching (or certainly not done when due) ... double hmmm!

I suggest the extra feeding with a tasty hard feed won't go amiss. I would definately go onto a drench regime (Arrest C or an organic of equal effectiveness). Ask your vet about Lepto/7-in-one at the same time and be guided by the vets advice. Don't worry about 'small'. Quite often they will catch up with the others and if they don't ... there will be extra "cute" value later. :)

5th April 2011, 09:07 PM
My opinion would be that they were weaned straight from milk (either mum or hand reared) without having much in the way of roughage to develop the rumen. We wean off milk well before 12 weeks but they stay on pellets until at least 12 weeks so the rumens are well developed. The potty-ness could be worms, or if it comes and goes could be from being full of grass but not very good at processing it.

Will they eat pellets, or a hage mix - wouldnt hurt to get some bulk into them. If your grass isnt the best quality at the moment it would benefit them to have some more protein. We also use a white combination drench (Arrest C) for the first few drenchings, which we do regularly for the first 4 or 5 months.

A pot gut is usually a low slung tummy, bloat is high up around the hip area and makes them look uneven when viewed from the front or back as it sticks out the side.

Certainly wouldnt hurt to get the advice of a vet on drenching and feeding if you are prepared to do that and concerned about them.

5th April 2011, 10:37 PM
12 weeks is the usual age to wean bottle-fed calves, but if they have been reared on the cow, then lots older is more usual. With bottle-feeding, you try to get the digestive system used to cow food because that is hugely cheaper than milk powder.
If the poo is firm, then I would suspect lack of minerals, especially selenium, cobalt and copper.
For vets, bloat is a disorder where the cow cannot eructate (ie "burp"). It usually happens very suddenly and is often fatal if not treated rapidly. It can be caused by the cow eating a lot of certain clovers that goes foamy in the rumen, or by a blockage of the throat with an object (eg an apple or a turnip), or in milk-fed calves by Clostridium perfringens having a party in the abomasum and making lots of gas. The left side of the cow, viewed from behind, blows up.
My Hereford calves that were weaned at 4 to 6 weeks old are doing remarkably well, and are eating pellets now. But they have been on high quality balage since we got them a couple of weeks ago.

6th April 2011, 01:06 PM
For what it's worth I weaned our September born Jersey Hereford cross heifer calf off the house cow at ten weeks this season and last month the vet's best guess for her weight was 150kg. She got the odd snack of the calf nuts my wife gives to the goats at milking time for a while but mostly just grazing.

6th April 2011, 04:18 PM
Our late August born babies weighed between 148kg and 206kg in mid Feb. 3 of the 12 were under 160kg - 2 were the youngest and Small was the smallest and will always be small.
Not huge by cow reared standards but on track for most of them to kill out at around 600kg liveweight at 2 years and not bad for hand reared calves.

6th April 2011, 04:22 PM
we wean off the cow at 9 month get them really looking good and solid start

6th April 2011, 04:36 PM
My brother usually weans his Spring born calves off the nurse cows in February. He keeps a few assorted ex dairy cows just to rear extra calves on. He puts two or three calves on each cow depending on how good she is.

6th April 2011, 04:47 PM
For what it is worth, without seeing these calves you have to understand the lowline as a breed. I have a reg bull I put over my two jersey cows, they are weaned around 12 to 14 wks of age , they do not get pellets. They have milk and grass, and then only grass after weaning. Lowlines are slow growing that is their breed, they don't tend to grow at a great rate until about 12mths of age, the jersey is a 'slight' breed which complicates the issue. Like I said without seeing them, if they have been feed correctly at the start and have ample feed they will grow, they are not a fast growing animal. If you do get the larger beef cross breeds.

Tui Ridge
6th April 2011, 05:08 PM
Thanks for all your input!

I know these guys aren't going to be big - but the difference between the biggest / oldest when we got them to now is considerable.

They were all about the same size when we got them - the boys 'looked' younger, they were all still brown but the girls faces were starting to go black.

Now the biggest girl is twice the size of the little fella, the others are in between but still bigger. They are all black now except for the little guy - only his face is black the rest of him is still brown.

Does that make sense? I was told that they'd all go black as they matured - thats what this particular cross does. So not just a size issue but a maturity issue.

Also - i've read about bloat - so I guess they have a 'pot gut' more

A pot gut is usually a low slung tummy, bloat is high up around the hip area and makes them look uneven when viewed from the front or back as it sticks out the side. though there may be a touch of actual bloat going on as well - there is lots of clover in their paddock.

I'll get the vet to look at them and get their drenches up to date and give them some extras until i'm a little happier with them[:)]