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Major diseases and their control

The most common diseases undoubtedly fall under the general heading of ‘Scours’ and ‘Pneumonia’. It is fair to say that neither of these disease complexes can be considered as straightforward and predictable. The calves are frequently infected by the organisms known to be associated with scours or pneumonia and yet will show no clinical symptoms of the disease. Equally, buffalo calf may incubate pathogenic organisms for days or weeks without harm and then suddenly as a result of environmental stress, fall sick. These important diseases are best considered as a complex interaction between the host, parasite and the environment. Here the host is buffalo calf, the parasite may be one or more of a whole range of micro-organisms and the environment may include anything that may affect the magnitude defense against that challenge (Webster, 1984).

Summary of common ailments of buffalo calves

  1. Hypomagnesemia


 1. Name of Disease/disorder : Calf Pneumonia/Enzootic bronchitis

·         Symptoms

Ø  Pyrexia/High fever

Ø  Thin/watery/thick/purulent nasal discharge

Ø  Discharge from the eyes

Ø  Dry hacking cough particularly notable on exercise or pinching the trachea

Ø  Diarrhea may be an associated symptom

·         Causes

Ø  Over crowding

Ø  Poor ventilation and large diurnal variations in calf house

Ø  temperature and relative humidity

Ø  Exposure to cold drafts, wet floors

Ø  Wet bedding or no bedding

Ø     Pneumonia caused by infectious agents like Pasteurella, Pseudomonas, Corynebacterium, Streptococcus, Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV), Parainfluenza virus, herpesvirus, Mycoplasma, etc. may also spread by contact with infected animal

·         Prevention and control

Ø  Provide adequate bedded area per calf and avoid overcrowding

Ø  Ensure proper ventilation

Ø  Replace bedding regularly, protect young calves from cold drafts and maintain all round hygiene in the pens/stalls

Ø  Feed milk/skim milk at proper temperature

Ø  Ensure adequate colostrum feeding to young calves. It will help them to develop adequate resistance

Ø  Isolate the affected calves, provide them ideal conditions and treat them with suitable antibiotics under veterinary supervision


 2. Name of Disease/disorder : Diarrhoea/calf scours/enteritis

                ·         Symptoms

Ø  Acute profuse watery diarrhoea, progressive dehydration and acidosis and death in a few days or earlier after the onset

                  ·      Causes

Ø  Low level of serum immunoglobulin following insufficient intake of colostrum

Ø  Abrupt changes in feeding schedule

Ø  Feeding of milk in unclean pails

Ø  Sudden change in weather, wet windy and cold weather may expose calves to diarrhoea

Ø  Unsanitary keeping conditions and deficiency of minerals may also precipitate diarrhoea on set

Ø  Drinking unclean water

Ø  Feeding less digestive feedstuffs, poor quality calf starters

Diarrhoea caused by infectious agents like rotavirus, coronavirus, E. coli, Salmonella and Cryptosporidium also spreads by contact with infected animals

·         Prevention and control

Ø  Ensure adequate colostrum feeding to ensure proper building of resistance in young calves

Ø  Reduce exposure to inclement weather conditions, and wet and dirty floors

Ø  Clean the feeding utensils thoroughly after each feeding and keep them in inverted position

Ø  Ensure that the milk/skim milk fed to calves is hygienically kept and is at body temperature

Ø  All the affected calves should be isolated and treated with oral/parenteral fluid therapy

Ø  Salmonella induced diarrhoea/enteritis should be treated with oral administration of nitrofurazone 20 mg/kg bw X 5 days or with trimethoprim and sulphadoxin


 3. Name of Disease/disorder : Constipation

·         Symptoms

Ø  The act of defecation is usually difficult and accompanied by much straining

Ø  Feces are dry, hard and of small bulk and are passed at infrequent intervals

·         Causes

Ø  Poor/no feeding of colostrum

Ø  Early inclusion of dry fodders in feeding of young calves

Ø  Improper watering schedule

·         Prevention and control

Ø  Ensure proper feeding of colostrum to young calves. Feed the young calves with adequate quantity of milk

Ø  Incorporate quality green fodders in calf feeding regime

Ø  Feed the calves with salt/mineral supplements and ensure access to clean drinking water

Ø  Feeding 30-50g of castor oil to calves is effective against constipation


 4. Name of Disease/disorder : Navel-ill

·         Symptoms

Ø  Mortality rate is high and in acute cases death is rapid, with no specific symptoms

Ø  In less acute cases, there is usually some swelling of the navel, with abscess formation, or the infection may spread to the liver with more serious effects

Ø  Loss of appetite, slightly elevated temperature and prostration

Ø  Hock and knee joints usually become swollen and painful

·         Causes

Ø  Insanitary keeping conditions

Ø  No dressing/improper dressing of navel

Ø  Use of unhygienic knife/blade for cutting the navel cord

Ø  Exposure to wet floors

Ø  Sucking of navel cord by other group mates

Ø  of the PLV (psittacosis-lymphogranuloma venereum) group and a species of Mycoplasma may be involved

·         Prevention and control

Ø  Use sterilized scissors/new blade for cutting the navel cord

Ø  Do proper dressings of navel cord. Squeeze the fluid from the cord and dip in a suitable antiseptic solution (tincture iodine). Insert a cotton swab soaked in antiseptic and ligate the distal end with clean thread

Ø  In case of external injury to the cord, do regular dressing

Ø  Provide clean and dry floors to the young calves. Bedded or raised platforms prove better


 5. Name of Disease/disorder : Ectoparasites(Lice/Ticks/mites)

·         Symptoms

Ø  Excitement, itching, irritation, abscesses on skin

·         Causes

Ø  Hot and humid living conditions

Ø  Unclean animal and surroundings

Ø  Overcrowding and indoor housing

Ø  Contact of infested animals, building and pasture

·         Prevention and control

Ø  Keep the animal, shed and surroundings clean

Ø  Wash and groom the animals regularly

Ø  Inspect the animals especially the hidden parts regularly and spray them as soon as lice/ticks are noticed

Ø  Isolate the affected animals and treat them separately

Ø  Apply sulphur mixed in coconut/peanut oil (3:1)

Ø  Spray the animals with suitable insecticides at periodic interval

Ø  In serious cases inject the animals with suitable preparations like ivermectin

Ø  Supplement minerals in the diet


 6. Name of Disease/disorder : Endoparasites(Round worms, tape worms, lung worms, strongyles,)     

·         Symptoms

Ø  Listlessness, diarrhoea, blood-tinged stools, distended abdomen, bottle jaw, etc.

·         Causes

Ø  Unhealthy keeping conditions

Ø  Under nutrition/malnutrition leading to mineral deficiency and lower resistance

Ø  Contact with infested animal water supply, pasture or fecal material

Ø  Intermediate hosts like flies, ticks, etc. also help their spread

Ø  Ingestion of soil, licking of walls, gates, infested floors, etc.

·         Prevention and control

Ø  Keep the pens and premises clean and dry, remove dung and store in a compost pit at a safe distance; composting kills the parasites and their eggs

Ø  Ensure clean drinking water

Ø  If grazing is practiced then maintain grazing rotation and practice periodic burning of pastures

Ø  Have a fecal sample tested in a laboratory and follow recommended medication or else use broad spectrum anthelmintic preparations

Ø  Follow the deworming schedule for young calves strictly. Deworm them at 2 weeks, and thereafter at monthly interval upto 6 months

Ø  Deworm older calves every 3 months. Two deworming one each before and after rainy season are of vital significance in northern India

Ø  If coccidiosis is suspected, give recommended doses of sulphamethazine/sulphadimidine


 7. Name of Disease/disorder : Tympany/Bloat

·         Symptoms

Ø  Excessive gas production in the reticulo-rumen of calves with subsequent distension of stomach

Ø  Abomasal bloat would typically be observed as severe distention on the right side of the animal while ruminal bloat results in distention of the left flank.

·         Causes

Ø  Intersuckling

Ø  Feeding unclean milk

Ø  Feeding high quantity of starch rich concentrates

Ø  Feeding young berseem/Lucerne/oats soaked in dew

Ø  Sudden change in feeding

·         Prevention and control

Ø  Maintain proper hygienic conditions in the pens/stalls

Ø  Avoid abrupt changes in feeding schedule

Ø  Avoid sole feeding of lush fodders and starch rich concentrates

Ø  Don’t feed spoilt/unclean milk

Ø  Administer 200-250 ml castor/coconut oil orally

Ø  Apply side or lifting pressure to the stomach to expel the gas

Ø  Insert a rubber tube into the stomach orally to expel the gas

Ø  In extreme cases, puncture the rumen in left side using 14/16 gauge needle or a trocar and cannula under veterinary supervision


 8. Name of Disease/disorder : Anemia

·         Symptoms

Ø  Anorexia, pallor of the mucosae, muscular weakness and depression, increased heart rate

·         Causes

Ø  Excessive loss of blood by hemorrhage, or by increased destruction or the inefficient production of erythrocytes

Ø  Poor nutrition management

Ø  Poor body condition of dam during advanced gestation period

Ø  Inadequate nutrient and colostrum intake

Ø  Diarrhoea and disease

·         Prevention and control

Ø  Ensure adequate colostrum intake soon after birth

Ø  Provide proper nutrition to young calves in the form of milk and good quality concentrates (calf starter)

Ø  Examination for infectious diseases

Ø  Injection of iron dextrin (150 mg) and vitamin A, B & E is effective in preventing anemia in young calves


 9. Name of Disease/disorder : Hypomagnesemia

·         Symptoms

Ø  Hyperexcitement, retraction of the head, white of the eyes apparent dueto upward rotation of eyeballs, continual movement of ears, inco-ordination of gait, convulsions, loss of urination and defecation control

·         Causes

Ø  Poor nutrition management

Ø  Calves being fed on milk only

Ø  Chronic scours

·         Prevention and control

Ø  I/v administration of 100 ml of solution containing 14 g calcium borogluconate and 3.6 ml magnesium lactate followed by 14 g magnesim sulphate in 50 ml water by s/c route, followed by 10-15 g magnesium oxide PO, daily

Ø  Supplementation of the diet with hay and concentrate or by addition of 5g magnesium oxide or 8g magnesium carbonate


  10. Name of Disease/disorder : Lead poisoning

·         Symptoms

Ø  A time lag of several days may occur before the onset of symptoms, the animal then dying within a few hours

Ø  In less acute cases, the calf is dull and dejected, has no appetite, sunken eyes, abdominal pain

Ø  Calf becomes greatly excited attempting to push against the walls of its pen, appears to be blind and staggers around with rolling eyes and frothing mouth. After collapse, muscular spasms and tetany occur before death

·         Causes

Ø  Licking of painted woodwork and metalwork, discarded paint tins, old lead plates from batteries, painted tarpaulins and vegetation sprayed with lead chemicals

·         Prevention and control

Ø  No treatment in acute cases

Ø  In subacute cases, calcium versenate (25%) twice a day by i/v or s/c route x 6 days + saline solution helps to alleviate nervous symptoms

Ø  Magnesium sulphate is also helpful


contributed by Dr N. Rana ,Dr Ashok Boora and Sunesh