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Dr. Max Thornsberry – Wet Lab: Calf Posting & Diagnostics
Posted on November 9, 2012 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
Dr. Max Thornsberry, veterinarian with Milk Specialties Global Animal Nutrition, has many years of experience in working with calves.
Reiterating a few of Dr. Sheila McGuirk’s points, Thorsberry reminded calf raisers of the importance of proper handling during his Vita Plus Calf Summit wet lab presentation.
Like McGuirk, Thornsberry urged producers to take their time when tube-feeding a calf. He said he typically spends about three to five minutes to ease an esophageal feeder into a calf’s throat.
He also said it’s important to lubricate the tube. He keeps individual pats of butter, like you would fine in a restaurant, in stock. When it’s time to tube-feed, he’ll warm the butter in his hand and coat the tube in the melted butter.
It’s just as important to ease the tube back out of the calf when finished, rather than jerking it out.
He warned against tube-feeding anything other than colostrum or electrolytes and trying to tube-feed a comatose calf. It needs to be at least sitting up on its chest.
Thornsberry also explained to attendees how to measure the quality of colostrum using a refractometer and how to perform a blood test on calves to ensure they absorbed a sufficient amount of antibodies from colostrum.
The second half of Thornsberry’s lab focused on an autopsy of a young male calf. He advised producers that they or a veterinarian should perform a post-mortem evaluation on every animal that died unless they know exactly how it happened.
In Thornsberry’s evaluation, he first looked over the calf externally. He noted that the calf was on the thin side, but was hydrated and clean, meaning it was “a poor-doing calf but a well-managed one.” A calf caked in manure will be put at a higher risk of disease transfer, since calves tend to lick themselves to clean off.
As he opened up the body cavity, he pointed out several areas of concern. The first was the internal navel and umbilical cord. It was inflamed and filled with pus, indicating that navel dipping had not been performed properly.
When Thornsberry got to the heart and lungs of the calf, he said it was obvious there was something wrong. The lungs were filled with fluid and white blood cells, due to mycoplasma. This disease is usually brought on by something else, be it another illness or an external factor, such as poor ventilation in the calf facilities.
While cutting open a calf may be a messy process, it can help identify some major issues on your operation that you might otherwise not have considered, Thornsberry said.