Producers need to know the disease they are dealing with before choosing a vaccine, which requires consultation with a veterinarian. | Heather Smith Thomas photo

Timing an important part of calf vaccination

Vaccinating too early, when calves still have maternal antibodies, may interfere with building their own immunities

Newborn calves gain temporary immunity against disease when they ingest colostrum because this first milk contains maternal antibodies. After a few weeks or months this temporary protection begins to wane, and calves must build their own immunities. Vaccinating calves at the proper time can help protect them until weaning age. Vaccinating them too soon, however, […] Read more

A retained placenta is generally shed within two to 11 days. The immune system degrades the material so it can eventually fall away.  |  Heather Smith Thomas photo

Retained placentas can cause other problems

Most cows do not need to be treated with antibiotics because they may interfere with the natural shedding process

Most cows shed the placental membranes within two to eight hours of calving. If it takes longer than that, infection could result. Dr. Carling Matejka, a veterinarian at Fen Vet in Airdrie, Alta., says that if a cow takes longer than 24 hours to shed the placenta, it is considered retained. “This is most common […] Read more

Banded calves can suffer irritation and pain when the band cuts through the dead skin and the dried-up scrotum and testicles are ready to fall off. | Heather Smith Thomas photo

Castration debate: cutting versus banding

Many veterinarians prefer cutting if it can be done at an early age but say banding has its place in certain circumstances

Earlier is better when it comes to castration of male calves, and the method depends on its age and on producers’ preference and circumstance. Dr. Carling Matejka, a veterinarian at Fen Vet in Airdrie, Alta., says some people prefer to band rather than cut and it may depend on age of the calf. “Age is […] Read more


The freemartin heifer is a result of shared exposure of hormones in the uterus. | File photo

Freemartins a risk with twins

Twins in cattle can create challenges. One of them is the arrival of a freemartin, an infertile female that can result when one twin is male and the other female. Dr. Colin Palmer, associate director of the University of Saskatchewan Livestock and Forage Centre of Excellence, says 85 to 90 percent of female calves born […] Read more

Dr. Robert Cope removes a cancerous growth from a cow’s eyeball.  | Heather Smith Thomas photo

Cancer eye requires early detection

The third eyelid is a common area for cancer in cattle, which can be removed surgically if found early enough

Cancer eye, formally known as bovine ocular squamous cell carcinoma, is the most common type of cancer in cattle. About 80 percent of tumours reported at slaughter are related to the eye and they are a leading cause of carcass condemnation at packing plants. Cancer eye causes significant economic loss to cattle producers due to […] Read more


Contractural arachnodactyly, or fawn calf, is rarely fatal but calves are tall and slender and may be weak, with impaired joint motion.  | Heather Smith Thomas photo

Inbreeding raises risk of genetic problems

Certain genetics can be tested for and managed rather than be completely removed from the breeding population

There are many undesirable genetic conditions in cattle, including dwarfism, hairlessness and edema. Some problems are inherited as dominant traits passed by one parent and some are recessive but received from both parents. A recessive trait can hide in each carrier parent, only appearing in calves if doubled up. Risk of genetic problems rises with […] Read more

A case of Mycoplasma is found in the lungs of a bovine.  |  Dr. Murray Jelinski photo

Mycoplasma bovis major threat for feedlots

About 40 percent of animals infected with M. bovis in the feedlot either die or are in the chronic pen and euthanized

Mycoplasma bovis is a bacterium that affects cattle and bison. In cattle, it can cause mastitis, arthritis and pneumonia. Not all infected animals get sick, however. Some just shed bacteria without signs. Dr. Jennifer Davies, pathologist and director of the diagnostic lab at the University of Calgary, said it can affect all age groups of […] Read more

Producers must be careful when switching their cattle from one type of pasture to another because it can cause lung conditions such as acute bovine pulmonary edema and emphysema.  | File photo

Change in diet can produce respiratory problems

Acute bovine pulmonary edema and emphysema are two lung conditions that can occur with sudden pasture changes

Acute bovine pulmonary edema and emphysema can occur when animals are suddenly changed from dry pastures to lush green ones or from dry hay to healthy pasture. Dr. Nathan Erickson of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan said problems arise from metabolism of certain proteins, when toxic products end up […] Read more


Artificial respiration may be needed if a calf isn’t breathing and other options have been unsuccessful. | Cody Creelman photo

Newborn calves sometimes need CPR

Calves that aren’t breathing need their airways cleared and extra encouragement; artificial respiration is a last resort

In a normal, easy birth, the calf starts breathing as soon as the umbilical cord breaks and its face and nose are uncovered. But sometimes after a hard birth, the calf goes too long without oxygen and doesn’t start to breathe. If the cord started to detach during birth, it will die unless it starts […] Read more

Another cow may try to claim a heifer’s calf if calving occurs in pasture.  | Heather Smith Thomas photo

Calming nervous heifers can help improve calving

Heifers are sometimes confused or indifferent toward their newborn calves. They may ignore their calf or kick when it tries to suckle, prompting the calf to try suckling other cows and causing further confusion. Dr. Andy Acton of Deep South Animal Clinic in Ogema, Sask., says heifers can be confused if suddenly moved into the […] Read more