Calves are born with a naïve immune system and for the first three weeks of life the calf relies on the antibodies provided by dam’s colostrum to help protect them against diseases. Poor management of calves exposes them to risks which poses the danger of death. Many farmers have reported deaths and incurred losses due to deaths of their calves.

Some calves are born dead – stillbirths while other die shortly (months) after being born. There are cases of deformed calves – contributing to the problem of calf mortality. Causes of calf mortality can be summarized as below;

  1. Dystocia is the number one contributor to calf death.
  2. Dystocia can affect calves severely enough to cause mortality directly, or can contribute to other problems and indirectly increase calf death.
  3. Heifers have a higher incidence of dystocia than mature cows, and calves from heifer-dams have increased death loss.
  4. Environmental conditions such as cold, wind, and moisture increase calf death.
  5. Calves affected by dystocia or other maternal health problems such as deficient or excessive body condition, adapt poorly to life outside the uterus and succumb to environmental problems more easily.
  6. Poor maternal nutrition reduces calf vigor, calf body heat production, and calf immunoglobulin absorption.
  7. Infectious disease problems increase in calves with dystocia, calves that initially adapt poorly to life outside the uterus, and calves with poor maternal immunoglobulin absorption.
  8. Infectious disease is the most important cause of death in calves greater than three days old.

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