Weak Calf Syndrome

What is Weak Calf Syndrome?

Weak calf syndrome presents as a newborn calf that is weak, unable or slow to rise, stand or nurse. These calves often die within three days of birth.

Symptoms of Weak Calf Syndrome

  • Calves appear weak
  • Calves are unable or slow to rise or stand
  • Calves are unable or slow to nurse

Causes of Weak Calf Syndrome

  • Exposure to cold and precipitation
  • Metabolic disorders in the calf (e.g. White muscle disease)
  • Difficult calving
  • Insufficient colostrum intake
  • Hypothermia
  • Milk fever in cows
  • Scours and pneumonia in calves
  • Trauma, many of which can be prevented or reduced with good calving management.

Problems from Weak Calf Syndrome

  • Calves that don’t receive colostrum within 2 to 4 hours after birth can die of exposure or become weak and unable to nurse and starve. In addition, the ability of a calf to absorb antibodies from the colostrum declines rapidly 12 hours after birth, and a calf suffering from weak calf syndrome cannot absorb antibodies after it is 24 hours old.
  • Weak calves can be tube fed colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk produced by the cow after calving and colostrum contain many important substances for calf health such as immunoglobulins (antibodies), energy, cytokines, growth factors, and increased levels of vitamins and minerals. In addition, colostrum has a higher fat and protein content than whole milk. Calves need 3 to 4 pints of colostrum in the first 4 hours.

Weak Calf Syndrome – Solutions

Minimise Exposure

Exposure to cold and precipitation can kill newborn calves rapidly. Ensure calves are adequately housed in a clean environment.

Mineral Supplements

Proper mineral supplementation of the cow before calving can reduce the risk of weak or slow calves. Selenium and Iodine are key minerals in preventing metabolic disorders and boosting the calf’s metabolism.

Minimizing the risk of Scours

Cows should calve in a clean environment. Pregnant cows should be kept out of the calving area until close to calving. Feeding natural additives to newborn calves can help boost immune function and also prevent or minimise scour. Aura Calf is a proven method to help reduce scour issues in calves.

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