As a mom of a calf roper, I understand the difficulty in keeping roping calves healthy.
I’d like to share our protocol that we have developed over the years that has lead to the best outcome for these calves.
Please consult with your veterinarian, as they may have regionally specific recommendations for you. Please order medicine from them as well, as they can give recommendations on using it as well as quality assurance.
Let’s start with why they are such a challenge.
1. They are orphans. Roping calves are too young to be properly weaned from their mommas. The only reason they are being sold is that either the mom has died, rejected the calf, is sickly, or some other problem that requires early weaning.
We normally leave calves on the cow for a minimum of 6 months, even up to 8 months. These calves are normally around 2-3 months of age. They are old enough to live without milk, but it’s not optimal for their health and growth.
2. They come through the sale barn. Their immune systems are immature, yet they are exposed to every germ known to cows. They will get sick after coming through the sale barn. Our job is to mitigate and prevent as much disease as we can.
3 – Stress and poor nutrition predisposes the calves to sickness. We must do our best to decrease stress and give a great plane of nutrition. Both of these are crucial to building a good immune system.
We have a protocol we follow before we offload the calves from the trailer. They are all around 180-200 pounds.
We use Inforce 3 intranasal respiratory vaccine. It is a live vaccine that builds quick immunity. We use it in herd outbreaks.
It needs to be mixed when used, and comes with an intranasal cannula.
We also use blackleg / clostridium vaccine. It’s environmental and every cow needs this vaccine.
We also give every calf 10 ml of Vitamin C in the muscle. Vitamin C has been shown to help in the prevention and treatment of most sicknesses, from the common cold to the COVID-19 virus.
We deworm. You can use an injectable, an oral (by mouth), or a pour-on (topical) product. Anything works, just so long as you use something. They are coming from different backgrounds, and you need to start knowing everyone is free from internal parasites.
Antibiotics are always debated. It’s best to wait until you see sickness to treat with antibiotics. However, I find these boluses to be a good option. They are one per 200 pounds – so one for each calf. You must have a bolus gun and understand how to administer them. The calf’s head and neck must be stretched out, and the bolus gun must be placed over the “hump” on the back of the tongue.
Now they need fresh water, a clean environment (not a muddy dirt lot), hay, and grain supplements.
They need to be monitored daily to be sure no one is away from the group, has a snotty nose, is breathing funny, has ringworm, or showing any other abnormal behavior.
Staying on top of the health of your calves will be rewarding for everyone.