If you have a new account but are having problems posting or verifying your account, please email us on [email protected] for help. Thanks :)
Hello all! Please ensure that you are posting a new thread or question in the appropriate forum. The Feedback forum is overwhelmed with questions that are having to be moved elsewhere. If you need help to verify your account contact [email protected]

Sick calf suggestions

  • 17-03-2023 9:10am
    Registered Users Posts: 8,605 ✭✭✭

    Had an extremely sick calf last weekend. Vet out Saturday and again Sunday. Looked like a navel infection that restricted the bowel movement some way and he was in a bad way all blocked up inside, panting, having fits around the shed on the floor.

    He was 5 days old when he got proper sick and was a poor sucker before that (I guess the sickness was building from birth) but was sucking.

    Gave him a few extra hours before getting him put down and he managed to put out a tiny shite and then picked up a tiny bit. Lost his walk for a few days but his “head” was improving if you get my meaning.

    Been tubing him 3-5 times a day with milk and electro since last Saturday as such. He is back back walking and in fairly good form. But a big dopey limo calf.

    So question is he seems to have lost his ability to suck.

    He got no milk yesterday (2litre late the night before) and still wasn’t hungry enough to go sucking at any point yesterday. I gave him just 1l of electro. Mother is as wild as hell (murphy law, she was marked for culling last year but 2 other cows didn’t go in calf so ended up keeping her) . it’s huge hardship to get her over to the crush in order to try get him on to her. And he has no interest, frustratingly so. Vet gave me a couple of shots (vigaophos and corononet…or something like that).

    1) Has he been tubed too much such that he has lost his ability to suck?

    2) could his throat be sore from tubing that he doesn’t want to suck?

    Any advice?


    1) Stop tubing and let nature take it course (live or die). Might try this end of next week when he has built up his strength a bit more.

    2) Weaning him from her (and string her up as soon as the truck will come) and keep tubing for aslong as he lets me and then try get him onto tit feeder till he is 8 weeks old (or what is the usually time to take a dairy beef calf off milk replacer?)

    3) Tube him for a few weeks until withdrawal periods are up and sell. Announce in mart he is not bucket trained? Feels like a dick head move though.

    4) Some wise head from boards has an amazing suggestion.



  • Registered Users Posts: 28,759 ✭✭✭✭whelan2

    Honey is great to get them to suck, maybe feed with a bottle

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,605 ✭✭✭893bet

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,862 ✭✭✭emaherx

    Probably not going to be useful for this case but a decent calving/nursing gate in a pen is far better than a standard crush when trying to get a calf back sucking

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,511 ✭✭✭Lime Tree Farm

    Now that you have got him this far, well done. He probably has a sore mouth or throat now. Ask the Vet for advice, a multi vit, anti-inflammatory or steroid to speed up recovery.

  • Registered Users Posts: 988 ✭✭✭minerleague

    Maybe try milking cow ( or another ) and use bottle and teat until calf sucks again. Had success with caster sugar mixed with tiny bit of water to make thick paste - put it on finger and see will calf suck

  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 28,759 ✭✭✭✭whelan2

    Put a bit on your finger, put in calf's mouth thrn put bottle teat in

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,999 ✭✭✭✭Base price

    There is a injection that you can get from your Vet to stimulate the calf to suck but I don't know if it can be given/works on a week old calf. I've got selenium injection in the past for a calf that wouldn't suck and it helped along with what @whelan2 suggested using honey on your finger/teat. Some calves are born with acidosis which will prevent them from sucking. If there is a dairy farmer near you I'd get a couple of litres of whole milk and heat to 37c - you need to get at least 4l of milk a day into him otherwise he is going to weaken out. Dry the cow off.

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,545 ✭✭✭✭patsy_mccabe

    I feel your pain. I've been there a few times over the years. I've found the infra-red lamp great. If heats the calf to the core.

    As for sucking, they say if you pince the tongue, it helps. Someone mentioned a bit of chocolate here before. Maybe worth a try.

    'The Bishops blessed the Blueshirts in Galway, As they sailed beneath the Swastika to Spain'

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,821 ✭✭✭✭Say my name

    Another way of getting a calf to suck is to put them into a tight pen with other calves. When they are on there own they can go a bit stupid. Having other calves in the pen can "wake" them up and bring on pucking from the calf trying to suck.

    Not sure you can do that being a suckler farmer?

    There is a rope trick that could be done but maybe it's too old now. Tried it once. It didn't work straight away but the calf sucked that evening.

    And yea as above use a bottle and teat.

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 8,950 Mod ✭✭✭✭greysides

    I would try to limit the tubing, more given less often might be possible?

    Anti-inflammatory, as suggested.

    What concerns me most is that he either has residual meningitis, or that he had meningitis, and is now brain damaged.

    ....perserverance pays...


    The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress. Joseph Joubert

    The ultimate purpose of debate is not to produce consensus. It's to promote critical thinking.

    Adam Grant

  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 28,759 ✭✭✭✭whelan2

    @893bet How's the calf doing?

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,605 ✭✭✭893bet

    Stopped tubing him Saturday morning. On bottle since but he is not sucking the bottle. Had to create a larger hole in the teat such that it flows into his mouth and he swallows happy enough but very slow. 30 minutes to a litre kinda slow.

    He is getting around 4 litres a day spread across 3-4 meals which is taking a lot of time.

    He do be chewing bits of straw which I don’t take as a good sign given his age and I hope it’s not hunger. His shite is still a brown colour (think human colour).

    He is in good enough form. On yogurt and probiotics.

    if his mouth/throat is sore how long will that take to right itself?

    He has till Sunday to start sucking and if not will dry the cow off and try get him drinking milk straight from a bucket.

    Thanks all for the responses but the way.

  • Registered Users Posts: 293 ✭✭Rusheseverywhere

    Had a calf like this once ended up a U grade so stick with him. Also have you a cow with the calf? You might be surprised what he would suck himself.

    If you think strong enough give him nothing for 12 hrs then put him on the cow. The downside with tubing and bottle is they will associate you with food and not the cow so try to get him back on her. Calf that is hungry will suck. If with the cow use the old trick of the top of a welly tied around the snout stop him sucking.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,356 ✭✭✭148multi

    If you can get a shot of this from your vet, it gives a good boost.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,605 ✭✭✭893bet

    I am at a bit of loss. He is no better really the last week, alive and alert enough but no buck him him.

    Not sucking cow or bottle. Been bottle feeding al week and have had to made the test hole bigger so it flows in. 2 litres takes circa 40 mins. It’s not time I have with two other Paye jobs on top of a busy home life.

    Tried starving him since yesterday morning to try get him hungry to drive a suck or to get him drinking straight from bucket and nothing.

    Options getting slim for him.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,895 ✭✭✭funkey_monkey

    Have you tried a steroid injection from vet?

    What are his reflexes like and eyes? Are there any signs of brain damage such as odd behaviour, twitches or eye reactions?

    Is he eating okay but just not sucking?

    Try putting him in a pen with a bucket of CMR to drink if he is taking straw or crunch. He must be getting fluids from somewhere. At some stage though it may come to the point where attempts to get him going will present a welfare issue as well as a viability issue.

    Is the vet able to give some thing to aid rumen development? Maybe some of those microbes. He must be around 3 weeks old now, so another week and you could put him on a OAD CMR as it would be a reasonable balance for his mouth or throat. If he is nibbling at straw his mouth might be fine and he just doesn't know how to suck.

    I'd not waste time with a bottle or bucket any more and if he was mine, I'd try stomach bagging him with OAD. If you speak with vet you might get approval to move him onto OAD earlier - isn't it 4 week old min age? If he's not taking milk then moving onto OAD CMR via a stomach bag to get him to weaning might be the best option for him and quickest for yourself.

    Post edited by funkey_monkey on

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,510 ✭✭✭Limestone Cowboy

    Get a shot of mederantil if you're vet has it. Its an appetite stimulant. Its the only thing I ever found that works and even that doesn't always work unfortunately.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    I find gripping and releasing the calf jaw with your hand stimulates the drinking.

    One of those scour powders or a synulox might give him a boost even though he doesn’t have scour

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,605 ✭✭✭893bet

    No steroid from what I can see in the long list of stuff he has had.

    No twitching as such but when he was a his worth he was all twitchy to the point of seizures almost. Now he is just dead in himself. Stands for hours under the lamp.

    I had been stomach bagging him twice a day but kind of assumed it’s not something that I could keep going. He has been getting all fluids through me. Slowly and painfully.

    Is it ok to just tube him? I would happily do that twice a day. It’s no big job.

    I have seen him nibbling at silage and straw. Again he foolish and will eat the **** bit on the ground. He has had no milk since yesterday morning and just noticed him at the cows udder there, but not sucking. Just in the right place. I don’t have fairh in him to get it done though, had a bottle teat in his mouth all week and he wasn’t sucking it….but nature is a power full thing maybe he get there on his own from hunger.

    Juts calved a cow, have the calf up and sucking in 2 hours, biggest issue in doing that was the mother wouldn’t stop licking me with her sandpaper tongue. With the sick calf at the udder now it would be perfect time to try get him on but the mother just wouldn’t allow me do it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,895 ✭✭✭funkey_monkey

    Is it ok to just tube him? I would happily do that twice a day. It’s no big job.

    For me, yes, I'd tube him as there isn't really much of a long term alternative.

    No steroid from what I can see in the long list of stuff he has had.

    We had a calf a few years ago that wouldn't suck and the vet gave some type of steroid for it and it came good.

    With the sick calf at the udder now it would be perfect time to try get him on but the mother just wouldn’t allow me do it.

    Ask the vet if you can get some dope for her to make her stand. Is he sucking your finger?

  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 8,605 ✭✭✭893bet

    Tubing seems to be only viable options from a time point of view and getting him fed.

    Not really sucking finger. Had him on the cow there with the test in his mouth perfect position and nothing from him…..and he had not being fed milk in two days (just electrolytes). Should be starving.

    I think he is is ruminating. See him chewing a cud already.

    Will tube him 2 litres morning and night and try get him eating a bit of crunch.

    Will ask vet about steroid.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,511 ✭✭✭Lime Tree Farm

    Can you restrain her in a headlock for a while, with the hind leg tied back. Give her meal and see will calf try for himself. Calves can be stubborn, left up to himself he just might.

  • Registered Users Posts: 988 ✭✭✭minerleague

    Are you 100% sure calf isn't sucking cow when you're not there? Been fooled myself on more than 1 occasion.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,605 ✭✭✭893bet

    Yeah have her in crush and brought calf to her then. Had kept him away from her and off milk for almost two days and he still wouldn’t latch on. Normally the taste of milk would drive I hungry calf mad but he didn’t have that reaction.

    Have weaned him from cow now as needed the pen they were in.

    vet says he had a few steroid injections, not much point trying more. If not sucking he should be dead. Will tube and syringe feed him twice a day. 2L via 60ml syringe only takes 10-12 minutes so not too bad. Maybe he start eating crunch.

    Any tips for crunch starting? He is isolated so doesn’t have other calves to show him as such?

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,895 ✭✭✭funkey_monkey

    Do you not have a stomach feed bag instead of using a syringe?

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,605 ✭✭✭893bet

    I do, and certainly quicker but more concerned about making throat/mouth sore from doing it repeatedly that might prevent him eating crunch etc.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,511 ✭✭✭Lime Tree Farm

    Are the kidneys and bowel functioning. I remember a very sick calf after being fed with a 60ml syringe, who would then go straight for the water trough to drink. Vet had said to give him access to water supply.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,605 ✭✭✭893bet

    Yes all seem to be working ok now.

    but that was the original problem navel infection that restricted the bowel likely the issue. Took a good does if antibiotics and stuff to get bowel moving. Dung looks a normal colour now and urinating ok also.

    Post edited by 893bet on

  • Advertisement
  • Registered Users Posts: 28,759 ✭✭✭✭whelan2

    How about leaving milk in a bucket in the pen instead of water?