Lorinne Anderson wrote:I suspect the calf that failed was sickly from the start, and slowly went further downhill as time went on.
I'm thinking the trick would be developing a relationship with the producer of the calves you are interested in; be it by email, a club, the pub, whatever. That would get you on site, so you can evaluate the environment, and likely get you cooperation with a calf that spends at least a few days with Mum, to ensure the colostrum angle is covered.
I would also take the time to ensure you have a good vet (research now) and get any new calves evaluated the day you pick them up (swing by the office for a welfare check). One thing I did not see mentioned is deworming, or parasite control. If you have a multi species grazing set up this could be an issue with transference between species.
Husbandry is most critical with babes, navel health, temp checks, etc., should be monitored and logged, daily, at least initially, until you are more familiar with what "normal" looks like.
Pneumonia in calves is often a side effect of other conditions (gut) and bloat or displacement puts pressure on lungs. This may not have been misdiagnosed - it could have appeared later.
Chatting with the 4H organization or kids who raise calves MIGHT be your best source of info!
Thanks Lorinne, I think you're right that the calf was sick from the start. And that's good advice to talk to a 4H club, I hadn't thought of that! Since this has been our first experience with cattle, I didn't really know what to look for (lethargy, boogers...he always took longer to stand up than the other calf). Now I know. The reason I think the vet messed up is, when the vet came out the second time, when the calf was clearly sick, I asked him if it could be pneumonia (in my cattle book it says that is the most common ailment for calves). He took the temperature and looked at his breathing rate - and said no, it was something else. He took a fecal sample and it came back with a high load of coccidia, so we treated him for that....but when the calf died a month later, I took him to the state run vet lab nearby, where they preformed a necropsy and told me it was pneumonia that killed him. And they said it could have been misdiagnosed because cattle can control their temperature if they're sick...like our calf was just hanging out in the shady part near the barn because he was already hot...at least that's how I understood it. But I suppose you're right that the parasite load was likely a contributing factor to his death.
I have the number of a different veterinarian I'll call in the future. Luckily there is a state run veterinary diagnostic lab not too far from where I live and does poop samples for $5, so I have been taking samples there a couple of times a year, for our sheep as well to determine if I should deworm. Which brings me to another question: it seems like most old timers I've talked to around here routinely de-worm their cattle twice a year (spring and fall)...I've learned with sheep to not routinely deworm them, but only if they do have parasites (which I learn from the samples) because otherwise the parasites quickly grow resistant to the dewormers. So I've been treating our calf like that as well. He hasn't been dewormed since the fall. Do you think that's a good way to proceed, or should I go ahead and worm him more regularly? For what it's worth, I've heard that with multiple species grazing the same pasture, they actually cut down on the parasites, and that they're usually not easily transferred between species...and we have ample room for them all so far, plus I'm rotating them every couple of weeks. Though I could be wrong - it's been a year of a lot of research and some of it gets scrambled!