Healthy Calves for a Lifetime of Productivity

Ensuring the health of your replacement animals is key to the long-term health and productivity of your herd. Now's the time to lay the groundwork:

  • It starts with building strong immunity to help protect young calves from infectious agents that can cause respiratory, digestive and other diseases.
  • Parasite control and scours management can help minimize roadblocks to healthy growth and weight gain.

Below are just a few things you can do to start your calves off right.

  • How can my calves build strong immunity to help fight off disease?

    Because it takes months for a calf’s immune system to fully develop, colostrum (the dam's first antibody-rich milk) and proper vaccination are critical. 

    Colostrum management

    • Because the cow's antibodies don't cross the placenta during pregnancy, the calf relies on the antibodies provided in the dam's colostrum
    • Colostrum absorption begins to decline shortly after birth until 24 hours of age, when absorption ceases.
    • Colostrum needs to be fed to dairy calves as soon as possible after calving.
    • As a rule of thumb, the calf should receive about 4 quarts of colostrum during the first eight to ten hours of life
    • Colostrum replacements may be necessary if maternal colostrum is not available or in short supply
    • To help cow herds produce better quality and quantity of colostrum, provide pregnancy-safe vaccinations and solid nutrition to maintain body condition scores between 3.0 and 3.5 before calving

    Calf vaccinations

    • As maternal antibodies decline, vaccinations can help protect calves until their immune systems are fully developed
    • Vaccination protocols should be based on the disease risks in your area and the recommendations of your veterinarian
    • Common early vaccinations include those against:
      • Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR)
      • Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) Types 1 and 2, including BVDV Type 1b
      • Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV)
      • Mannheimia haemolytica
      • Parainfluenza 3 (PI3)
      • Clostridium spp.
      • Pinkeye (Moraxella bovis)
  • What can I do to prevent parasitic freeloaders from slowing calf growth?

    Internal parasites can slow growth rates.1 To help your calves keep gaining, eliminate damaging internal and external parasites.

    Read More

  • There has to be a way to minimize calf scours outbreaks.

    Calf scours, or neonatal calf diarrhea, is a common source of sickness and death in calves under a month of age. Affected calves can fall behind in performance and never catch up, so early intervention, correction of dehydration and prevention are paramount. 

    Common Causes

    • Viruses: rotavirus, coronavirus, bovine viral diarrhea virus
    • Parasites: Cryptosporidium and coccidia
    • Bacteria: Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens
    • Nutritional: improperly mixed milk replacer, inconsistent timing or feeding volumes

    Clinical Signs

    • Dehydration
    • Loss of appetite
    • Weakness, depression and lethargy
    • Manure may be loose/watery with or without the presence of blood


    • Work with your veterinarian to identify the cause, so proper treatment can be initiated
    • Analysis of fresh fecal samples and necropsies of dead calves can help determine the cause


    • Isolate sick calves
    • Train employees to treat sick calves last and to maintain biosecurity protocols for sanitation of gloves, boots and clothing
    • Educate employees that scouring calves may transmit disease to humans, and hands should always be washed after working with calves before eating, drinking, smoking, and before leaving the farm
    • Replace fluid and electrolytes with oral treatments; intravenous fluids may be required if calves fail to suckle
    • Your veterinarian may recommend nutritional support
    • During cold temperature, provide warmth with deep bedding; shelter calves from wind, rain and snow
    • During warm temperatures, provide a cool, shaded, well-ventilated area to minimize heat stress
    • Depending on the cause, your veterinarian may recommend medications such as antibiotics


    • Ensure newborns receive adequate colostrum and work with your veterinarian to monitor antibody transfer
    • Immunize the cow herd against enteric pathogens to help build calf immunity
    • Keep environment clean and free of fecal matter that can carry pathogens
    • Avoid overcrowding and minimize stress
    • Segregate calves by age to avoid exposure to pathogens from older cattle, and always care for animals from youngest to oldest
  • Help keep calf pneumonia at bay.

    Calves often don't fully recover from pneumonia and so early diagnosis and treatment are critical.

    Common causes

    • Bacteria: Mannheimia haemolytica, Pasteurella multocida, Histophilus somni, Mycoplasma spp.
    • Viruses: Bovine respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza 3 virus, bovine herpesvirus-1 (infectious bovine rhinotracheitis), bovine viral diarrhea virus
    • Often associated with stress and co-infection with multiple pathogens

    Clinical signs

    • Respiratory distress, coughing, nasal discharge
    • Depression
    • Loss of appetite
    • Fever


    • Based on clinical signs and laboratory testing
    • Work with your veterinarian to determine organisms involved


    • Isolate sick calves
    • Administer appropriate antibiotics
    • Correct dehydration with oral electrolyte solutions or fluid therapy
    • Work with employees feeding calves to recognize clinical signs early using a scoring system, and treat sick calves after caring for healthy calves


    • Ensure newborns receive adequate colostrum
    • Immunize the cow herd against pathogens to help build calf immunity
    • Work with your nutritionist to design a feeding program to meet the nutritional needs of a growing calf
    • Avoid overcrowding and minimize stress
    • Housing by age in individual, pair, or group housing prevents exposure to pathogens from older cattle

Calf products

Alpha™ Diaque® LongRange® (eprinomectin) Pyramid® + Presponse® SQ
Eprinex® (eprinomectin) Synanthic® (oxfendazole)


EPRINEX IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: No meat or milk withdrawal is required when used according to label. Do not use in calves intended for veal or unapproved animal species, as severe adverse reactions, including fatalities in dogs, may result.

LONGRANGE IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Do not treat within 48 days of slaughter. Not for use in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older, including dry dairy cows, or in veal calves. Post-injection site damage (e.g., granulomas, necrosis) can occur. These reactions have disappeared without treatment. Not for use in breeding bulls, or in calves less than 3 months of age. Not for use in cattle managed in feedlots or under intensive rotational grazing.

SYNANTHIC RESIDUE WARNINGS: Cattle must not be slaughtered until seven days after treatment. Because a withdrawal time in milk has not been established, do not use in female dairy cattle of breeding age.

Education and Resources

The Six Pillars of Successful Calf Raising 

Dr. Curt Vlietstra, professional services veterinarian with Boehringer lngelheim, offers six management pillars that can contribute to the success of young calves and the prevention of bovine respiratory disease. 

Create a Smoother Transportation Experience for Your Dairy Calves 

Stress from transportation can compromise the immune system and make calves susceptible to bovine respiratory disease (BRD) and bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV). A transportation plan is paramount to avoiding these disease disasters.


Respiratory Disease in Calves – Protect the Future of Your Dairy 

Dr. Curt Vlietstra, professional services veterinarian, Boehringer lngelheim, shares five essential factors to help reduce the risk of a calf getting bovine respiratory disease.

One Persistently Infected Calf Can Wreak Havoc on Your Herd 

According to Dr. Stephen Foulke, professional services veterinarian, Boehringer lngelheim, calves exposed to the BVD virus in the womb remain infected, shedding the virus and exposing your herd for a lifetime.

1Morter RL, Horstman L. Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service. Treating for internal parasites of cattle. Available at: Accessed August 13, 2019.