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Dr. Lisa
Dr. Lisa, Veterinarian (DVM)
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 511
Experience:  Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Integrative Medicine (Western and Homeopathic)
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Drop Calf

Customer Question

We have a 2 and a half week old Brahman bull calf. The calf has been running a fever, that has broke. He started showing signs of scours, however, he is acting constipated, and the stool, that is passed, is gummy, and looks like mucus. He is drooling, and acts as if he is cold. Also he will walk some, can get up on his own, and is alert, but does not want to drink much. At best half a pint ever two or so hours. His tounge is traveling off to the side, to which we gave him Bo-SE, also we gave him Excenel, for infection. Umbilical cord seems clean, with no signs of infection. Have given him Resorb and Pedyanlite, Tries to nurse at times, other times will drink well, with many breaks. The mother of said calf, is 24 years old, according to papers, she had no milk. We were not aware that she was bred.
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Dr. Lisa replied 10 years ago.


I'm sorry to hear about the trouble with your calf. It sounds like your calf did not get any colostrum which is likely to affect how is immune system is going to respond to everything. Colostrum, or the mother's first milk is rich in antibodies. Without it, the calf will be susceptible to all of the potential disease entities in the environment. It's too late now to give him colostrum. If he has failure of passive transfer, he can receive a plasma transfusion to acquire the antibodies if needed.

Scouring can be due to overfeeding (it doesn't sound like he's doing that), cryptosporidium (an intestinal parasite) or a host of other difficulties. The Bo-Se and Excenel are great choices. How many doses of Excenel have you given? How high was his fever? How many days did it last?

You should start to feed this calf some green forage -- grass hay or alfalafa for him to nibble on. It will help stimulate a healthy gastrointestinal tract.

Did the tongue issue resolve after the Bo-SE?

It sounds to me like your calf may have Listeriosis. This is a potentially fatal infection. You can read about this disease at

Penicillin G is the drug of choice for this disease at high doses. Listeriosis would account for the drooling, high fever, tongue signs, and difficulty drinking/nursing. It is an infection of the brain stem which causes neurologic signs.

Check out the link -- let me know if the signs described there match what you see. Either way, I would also treat this calf with Pen G. It won't hurt and may be the answer you need.

Please let me know if you need more information.

Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Dr. Lisa Boyer's Post: The calf was feed colostrum, 2 4.5 pint bottels worth, within the first 4 hours. Then for the next two weeks he drank, and acted perfectly normal. Then about 2 days ago, he had some hairloss, which was a recult of fever. Hairloss is confined to neck, horn area, and muzzle.    Was given two 3cc shots of Excenel, to which he showed improvement. He was also given Bo-SE as his tounge was travelling. The tounge travell improved slightly with the Bo-SE shots. The drooling slowed.    

As for hay, grain, I have never had anything that young (2 weeks) interested in any type of roughage, or grain. He was not in a stall, but roaming in outside in a fenced 30x30 lot, with grass, and a calf hutch with pine shavings.
This is the first time in 25 years that we have had a calf act in this fashion, and whose stool looks like mucus.
Aside from the fact that he is always trying to have a bowel movement, and pass gas, he stops drooling and eats between half a 4.5 pint bottle.
His eyes are alert, and he is responsive. If it were what you suspect, at this point he would not be laying normally, and standing on his own.
Expert:  Dr. Lisa replied 10 years ago.


Thanks for the additional history. It certainly helps. I'm glad to hear that he got colostrum. The amount you fed should have been sufficient. From your description above, the tongue travel and drooling are slightly improved, but have not resolved entirely.

I would not feed grain at all to a calf that young. Some calves will show a small interest in roughage like grass hay at early ages -- taking nibbles. I'm not suggesting that you feed it in any significant amount, just that you place a small amount in a feeder so that if he has interest, it's available. Since he has fresh forage available, this may be unnecessary.

When approaching a case, I try to see if I can make all of the clinical signs fit one disease -- usually animals don't have numerous concurrent diseases. The tongue travel is a unique sign combined with the fever. That's why I hit upon listeriosis.

The scours could be due to cryptosporidium (usually found in dairy cattle, but I've seen it in young beef breeds on occasion)or other intestinal parasites like coccidia. Both of these parasites produce mucoid diarrhea. Mucous is from increased residence time of fecal material in the rectum. The goblet cells produced mucus at a constant rate, and if transit rate of feces is decreased, then a larger than normal mucus pellicle will develop around the fecal matter. If there is no stool, mucus is formed, and deposited directly in the rectal lumen. So, in a nutshell, the mucous indicates an issue in the large bowel or colon/rectum.

Is there any evidence of coughing in your calf? Bovine Viral Diarrhea or BVD can cause mucoid diarrhea, fever, and excessive salivation without any evidence of difficulty breathing. You may see ocular (eye) changes with this disease as well like "blue eye". Another possibility is "enteritis" which is caused by Salmonella typhimurium or S. dublin. Clinical Signs of this disease include fever, diarrhea and dehydration. Feces are usually soft, then watery fluid and after 2–3 days contains mucous , blood and intestinal lining.

I hope that this may shed some light on the situation. Please let me know if this is helpful.

Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Dr. Lisa Boyer's Post: This is helpful. But he seems to try and have a bowl movement, but he cannot. The fever is gone. He nurses well, but maybe 5 or 6 minutes. then that is it for a few hours, or until he has a very small bowl movement. I have never seen a calf that seemed constipated. I have once or twice in yung bison calves. And if he were a bision I would just give him mineral oil.   I know about selemonella, but when i check his stool nothing is found. I was thinking about putting him on Sulfermethoxazole and Trimethoprim 800 mg/160. his stool is a green with yellow mucus, and is still gummy. His gum and eyelid color are pink. While he is not coughing, he is panting. We have had him up and walking. I am concerned that he might come up with pnuemonia. Normally when things get this way, I have a rumenant vet on call, but since I moved here, I have yet to find one, let alone a good vet for anything.
Expert:  Dr. Lisa replied 10 years ago.

How did you check his stool for Salmonella? You would have had to culture his feces at a lab. I would treat him for BVD. TMS is not a good antibiotic for ruminants - it is broken down in the rumen and not as effective.

Here is a good link to a source on antibiotic choices:

Another link on calf scours -

A good link on BVD -

I would treat with procaine penicillin G. Use the labeled dose on the bottle. You can also feed with an esophageal feeder if needed - tubing the calf.

Please let me know what other info you need. I'm pretty sure your calf has BVD.

Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Dr. Lisa Boyer's Post: The calf passed. there was a necropsy performed on the calf. What we found was the bowel was completely blocked with hair. there was about 1 pound of human hair, of various lengths into quarter and half dollar sized balls. Will be happy to send you photos of this necropsy. Right now we are at a loss as to how this calf ingested all this hair, ranging from a few centimeters to a few inches.
We have never seen hair blockage in an animals bowel, but we have seen various other items blocking a bowel, (ie bailing string, plastic, screwon calf nipples.) This was something that was totally unexpeced, considering his enviroment, and he was not totally isolated, but was kept by himself.
We keep out calves seperate, even from themselves, but where they have contact with other cows. The nearest other animal was between 15 and 20 ft away.
Thank you for your Time and help. We would still like to hear your thoughts on this. We would be willing to send you photos of the necropsy. My mother, who performed all the tests, is a vet tech, and has worked with vets, and while nota vet herself, this did not appear to be a normal blockage.

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