Premature calf

Asked January 29, 2013, 4:00 PM EST

One of our Angus cows had her first calf. It has to be at least 1 month early. Not sure the calf got the first milk or not. We watched and didn't ever see her nurse. Brought her and mother to barn, milked mom, and bottle fed the calf. Eating well. She has developed blue cloudy eyes. The vet is treating with prescription ointment and antibiotics. My question is: Do you think that her eyesight will get better as she gets older? Right now she can't see. Is that a common thing? Do you think the drought is causing premature births?

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1 Response

You did not describe the birth size and hair of the calf to determine if it is truly one month premature. These young calves can be quite challenging to manage. You are already approaching the problem correctly by having your veterinarian involved in diagnosing and treating the disease. You also did not mention the age of the calf, as you could have your veterinarian draw blood from the calf to measure total protein concentration to assess whether the calf truly consumed adequate colostrum. This testing process is best completed within the first 3 days of life, though can be done later, though interpretation is more difficult. Without knowing the clinical presentation of the eye problem (tearing, purulent discharge, other signs), it is hard to provide any diagnosis. If the clouding occurred soon after birth it most likely is some acquired infectious process. If the eyes were cloudy at the time of birth, then you will want to determine if the calf is persistently infected with the bovine virus diarrhea (BVD) organism. Again your veterinary is better positioned to make these diagnostic decisions with the calf. As for the drought potentially be responsible for the premature calving, that could be possible. You may have some premature births if a pregnant cow, especially a first time cow, is limited on feed intake and cannot meet her nutritional needs for energy and protein. Other potential toxins in limited, drought stressed feeds might also contribute to premature birth.