6 wk old calf stiff legged

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I have a 6 wk old calf that was pulled on a very cold night. He never got up so the next morning we got the colostrum from his mom(heifer) and bottle fed him. He now nurses well on his own and can get up on own but can hardly walk. It looks like his front and back right legs dont work right - Does this sound like an injury, arthritis, congenital or what. WE have to tie his mother up to let him nurse. Someone has said maybe naval disease but he is not getting worse, in fact somewhat stronger and of course bigger. Should I give up? E Texas

-- Jan douthit (mdouthit@flash.net), February 09, 2002


I have never raised calves, but in reading your post you say the calf was a "pulled" delivery, if this means as I believe that you had to mechanicaly pull the calf out perhaps he has a pinched nerve or dislocation in the spinal colum that would improve with treatment?? Good luck!

-- Bee White (bee@hereintown.net), February 09, 2002.

It doesn't sound like naval ill, which is a deficiency of iodine. If problem was associated with being pulled, only the front or back should be affected, depending on how it was pulled. Consult your vet. He may have you give steroid shots.

Perhaps you should consider weaning it to a confined space and feeding it out as a veal calf for your freezer. Be aware of the withdrawal time of any medication.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 10, 2002.

It does sound like joint (navel) ill to me, and they can last for a long time and grow quite big (several hundred pounds) before they will die. If he has swollen knees, which you may see break open and drain on occassion, you can bet on that's what it is. I've never been able to cure it since it's settled in the joints where it can't be reached with antibiotics. With more than one leg affected, I'd sell him for what you can get if you decide this is the problem. I had one cow with only one front knee affected with this grow up and become quite a good milker, but her knee was always enlarged and would periodically open and drain. They can deal with one leg affected, but anymore than that is pretty hard on them. The vet, when asked about this when my cow was an adult, said the only thing to be done was to syringe salt water into the hole in her knee to flush it more when she would drain out. She was finally sold for cull but not because of her leg. Sorry about the calf.

-- Jennifer L. (Northern NYS) (jlance@nospammail.com), February 10, 2002.

Can someone (ie Ken maybe) please explain to me what navel ill is? It sounds like a joint problem, then why is it called navel. I thought Iodine deficiency led to thryroid problems. I know these questions may sound dumb but I am trying to educate myself. Thanks guys!!! Kim

-- kim (fleece@eritter.net), February 10, 2002.

Joint ill and navel ill are terms which are used interchangeably. The problem normally affects the joints (particularly the knees which can be swollen) and a main source of the infection which can cause it is through the navel of a newborn. While it may not specifically be arthritis, it mimics the symptoms. Some goat and sheep raisers try to thoroughly saturate the naval area as soon as possible after birthing. Because of normally an obvious infection at the site of the naval, it picked up the naval ill term. However, the navel is basically a point of entry.

My understanding is it is fairly rare and occurred most frequently in areas which are known to have iodine deficient soils. I've never had it in my herd. I've only seen what I thought was it on a dairy farm across the road from Jd's initial house in the North Woods of Wisc. Remember at one time the Great Lakes states, and the northern tier of states stretching to Washington State, were known as the goiter belt. It is one of the reasons iodized table salt is available.

Merek's Vet Manual only addresses it in goats and pigs. A Veterinary Guide for Animal Owners only addresses it in goats. Keeping Livestock Healthy only addresses it in general terms, specifically referring only to a colt. The Stockman's Handbook says it can affect newborn foals, calves and lambs (where it is called arthritis), Beef Cattle Science says "Naval Infection (Joint-Ill or Navel-Ill) is an infectious disease of newborn calves, foals and lambs. It occurs less frequently in calves and lambs than in foals. Symptons and signs are characterized by loss of appetite, by swelling, soreness and stiffness in the joints, by umbilical swelling and discharge, and by general listlessness." Jan didn't cite any of these, just the legs didn't seem to work correctly. It also seemed to be a unique experience for them, which is why I still suspect it is somehow related to the calf being pulled, but admit it could just be a coincidence. Eliminating other possibilities, it could be navel or joint ill. Apparently even vets have problems confirming whether it is or not.

All of my references say basically it cannot be cured. Threatment may include a sulfa drug or an antibiotic, such as penicillin. Primary deterent given is birthing on a clean pasture or in a clean area (such as a well bedded stall with clean bedding) and liberally soaking the navel area with iodine several times. (Remember basically the navel area is an open wound until it dries up.)

My references don't specifically say an iodine deficiency in dams contributes to navel or joint ill, but The Stockman's Handbook does recommend in iodine deficient areas, iodized salt should be fed to all farm animals throughout the year.

Bear in mind I am not a vet and have almost no livestock experience outside of cattle. Since the calf is otherwise healthy, I would try to raise it to veal calf size and put it in the freezer. At six- weeks old it should be able to be weaned on goat milk or milk replacer, calf grower, good quality hay and water.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 10, 2002.


I'd also recommend your calling your vet and discussing the calf with him. Me might have you come in for steroid medication or recommend some type of anti-inflamation medication.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 12, 2002.

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