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Dr. Todd
Dr. Todd, Large Animal Vet
Category: Large Animal Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 754
Experience:  35 years of experience
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We have had 3 calves with bent joints at the ankle. One had

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We have had 3 calves with bent joints at the ankle. One had them on the front and not to bad it is doing okay. The other two had more severe bends and were very stiff we bottle fed them but they slowly got worse and died. We now have another one that is bent in the front and has nursed from cow but is getting worse. There seems to be no fever or swelling just unable to straighten joints. What would cause this and what should we do?

The tendons of the front legs of newborn calves are often tight. Because the calves are unable to stretch their legs in the womb, the tendons don't stretch.


Generally as the calves begin to use their legs and put weight on their hooves, the tendons stretch to normal length.


If the calf is unable to walk properly splints can be applied to the legs until the tendons stretch.


You can also hold the calf upright so it can place its hooves on the ground. As you lower the calf a bit the body weight will slowly stretch the tendons. Hold the calf so its legs can bear the body weight. You may have to do this several times for a few days.



Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Yes we have tried that but the joints are not bendable almost as if they are frozen in place massage does not help we are wondering if it could be a mineral or vitamin deficency. The cows are well fed on range and alfalfa /mixed grass hay they have salt and mineral blocks. They have fresh water and calves are not cold or stressed.

I believe your calves' problem is hereditary. Unfortunately a hereditary or genetic problem is serious.


It is serious in that you can't cure the affected calves.


There is testing available to determine which animals have the genes which cause the frozen joint problem. This testing can determine which animals can be bred.


What is the breed of your cows?


Have the cows been bred to the same bull this year?


Please excuse me. I have a call that will take me away from the computer for a while. I will reply when I return.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
This is the other part that keeps us baffled the last cow was bred to our bull and kept at our ranch she is black angus/red angus cross bred to black angus bull, the 2nd calf was from a black angus bred to black angus that we bought in January and moved to our ranch so no relation. The first calf was black angus/charalois cross bred to black bull so possible relation. We use 5 different bulls and pasture breed a herd of about 80 to 100 cows. The 2nd calf was probably the worst as all joints were stiff in lower joints the calf gave up and died after about 3 days of us bottle feeding and holding to mother cow to nurse. We purchased 2 of our black angus bulls from a ranch that has bulls of same breeding so we will contact them to see if they have had problems. There have been 2 other ranches in our area that have had similar problems and we have all been wondering if it is the severe winter. We have had sets of twins that are fine and have adopted them to the cows that lost their calves with only the usual adoption problems. We had concern there might be something wrong with the cows we purchased but it has came from our own herd also.
Do you have any lupine in your pastures?

If you don't have lupine in your pastures, then the problem is hereditary.


The problem occurs in calves which are homozygous recessive. Affected calves get a recessive gene from the bull and from the cow.


The existence of the problem indicates you have cows that are carriers. If they are bred to carrier bulls, their calves will be affected. If they are bred to bulls that are not carriers, no calves will have the problem.


Any bulls or replacement bulls that are tested and found to be carriers should not be allowed to breed your cows.


Dr. Jonathan Beever at the University of Illinois ([email protected]) has researched this problem.



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