|The surviving calf, standing up and enjoying milk from a bucket|
Finally we knew what was wrong with the calves, they had paralysis tick poisoning. The first calf seemed to be improving, so he had obviously lost the ticks just in time, the second calf got worse, losing control of her neck, and finally dying a few days after we bought her home. I know, another dead calf! We haven’t had an easy time lately!
- We have paralysis ticks at Kumbia and need to be careful that the dogs (and even humans, especially small ones) don’t get bitten, we need to be appropriately dressed when we’re in the long grass/bush land where the ticks might be waiting to jump onto a new host.
- The only way to be sure that all the ticks are off the calves is to use one of a couple of nasty organophosphate pesticides. We bought one and poured it over both calves so we at least knew that the ticks were dead (it can be hard to find all of them in their fur). We will use this pesticide on any future weak calves as soon as we find them, just in case, the sooner the ticks come off, the less poison they can pump into the calves and the better chance they have of recovery.
- The pesticide only lasts for a week, so its not a sustainable method of prevention, you can’t get the cattle into the yards to be covered in OPs once a week when you’re trying to be organic! Fortunately the herd should build up immunity to the toxin after the big cows have been bitten a few times, and they should pass this on to their calves.
- We don’t know if there were paralysis ticks at the property that we bought the cattle from. Our two weak calves either didn't have mothers to pass on the immunity or were just particularly weak and susceptible to the toxin. We are waiting to see if any of the other calves are affected, so far they all look very fat and happy, except for one skinny one that we cornered and rolled over. He also had a tick, so we doused him with the chemical, and he's still alive, so must have got to him in time. We are still wondering why the calves were so weak and skinny in the first place, its not clear if the ticks cause the calves to lose weight, but it seems that there is more research into tick poisoning of domestic pets rather than cattle, so possibly it is a symptom, I just haven't read about it.
- Nursing an affected calf – the most important thing is to keep the calf upright using hay bales or blocks of wood, so that it doesn't roll onto its side, which is bad for its rumen. If they can’t get to water, make sure that they are hydrated. The vet stuck a tube into each of their stomachs and gave them electrolyte solution. This is not recommended without training, as you can end up with fluid in their lungs if you don’t know what you’re doing, but you can also bottle feed electrolytes. The powder isn’t cheap, I made up my own using dextrose, salt and baking soda (recipe here). If the calf can stand, help him to get up and walk around, so that he’s not lying down all the time. Eventually the calf should recover to the point that they can almost get up by themselves, and then one day they will be wondering around the yard as if nothing ever happened.
- As I said in the last post, make sure they have shelter and it doesn't hurt to give some Vit C and Vit B12 injections as well!
|see how skinny he is!|
Did I miss anything? How are your calves doing?