Dr. Sheila McGuirk – Wet Lab: Live Daignostics & Calf Handling

Posted on November 9, 2012 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
University of Wisconsin-Madison veterinarian Sheila McGuirk has several helpful hints when handling calves, particularly in stressful situations for youngstock, such as dehorning and vaccinations.
She kicked off her wet lab presentation at Vita Plus Calf Summit by evaluating an animal for respiratory disease. She advised growers to look for the following symptoms, and if they noticed two or more, they likely have a problem:
  • Drooped ears, flicking ears or calves scratching at ears (could indicate an ear infection)
  • Discharge, pus or tears around the eyes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Spontaneous coughing
  • Fever
She showed attendees how to grab the windpipe of a calf and shake it back and forth twice. A healthy calf will cough once. Two or more coughs could indicate respiratory disease.
She also advised growers to take note of activity among the calves.
“Healthy baby calves will sleep 75 to 80 percent of the day,” she said. “The ones who aren’t sleeping may be signaling that something is wrong.”
During the course of the lab, McGuirk also provided proper technique on locating injection sites and administering medicine as well as dehorning, esophageal feeding, and navel care.
Attendees were particularly interested in her drug-free tips for helping a newborn calf breathe:
  • Use a dry towel and wipe it from the tail head up to the neck to replicate a mother cow licking the calf.
  • Tap your finger on the middle of the calf’s muzzle.
  • While sticking straw up the nose to clear mucus has been done for ages, McGuirk also recommended sticking a piece of straw straight across through the nostril.
  • As a last resort, pour ice water on its head or a small amount in its ear. This will cause the calf to shake its head, stimulating its brain and causing it to take a breath.
As soon as the calf is standing, McGuirk urged, it’s time to get the calf out of the maternity area and drinking colostrum.

Category: Animal handling
Animal health
Starting Strong - Calf Care