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Worried About Weaning?

Here are some of the common weaning problems seen in dairy cattle:

Weaning is fast approaching and it is one of the most stressful events a calf will experience throughout their life.

Gastrointestinal Parasitism

What? There are many different types of parasites that can cause clinical disease in cattle, and it is best to prevent these from becoming a problem early. Cattle ingest larvae from pasture

as soon as they start eating and do not develop immunity until 18-24 months old.

Clinical signs: Poor weight gain, dull coats, diarrhoea.


  • Cross-grazing young animals with older stock or different stock types

  • Use of crops

  • Do not graze young animals on pasture <2cm.

  • Preventative drenching program.

If you think there may be a worm burden on your farm, bring in faecal samples to the clinic for testing and/or speak to one of the staff about drenching options for young stock.


\What? Coccidia is a protozoa that is transmitted in the faeces. It is commonly seen in animals from 4 weeks to 12 months of age. Triggers such as weaning or bad weather can cause a weakened immune response resulting in clinical disease.

Clinical signs: straining to defecate, ill-thrift, scour, soiled hocks, decreased appetite.


  • Good hygiene practices in the calf shed, and good positioning of feeders to reduce faecal contamination.

  • Continue monensin in feed for 3 weeks post weaning.

  • Calves need to be eating at least 1kg of meal per calf per day as they are weaned off milk.

  • Use Baycox drench as a single drench at 4-5weeks of age.

How can we detect this? Bring faecal samples to the clinic to determine if coccidiosis is present in your calves.

Trace Element deficiency

Weaners are susceptible to trace element deficiency if they are not supplemented adequately.

The main trace elements are selenium, copper, and cobalt (B12). Clinical signs in cattle of a TE deficiency include poor growth rates, diarrhoea, loss of coat colour, and decreased production.

Trace element testing is important at key times of the year to ensure animals are meeting growth targets, allowing them to perform once mating rolls around.

Veterinarians can assist to take blood samples at key times throughout the year, ensuring your animals are meeting targets for best results. Autumn, transition and premating are all good times to blood test.


What? Yersiniosis is a bacterial disease seen in

calves over 3 months of age, more commonly around 10-11 months. Yersinia pseudotuberculosis is a normal bacteria found in the gut; however, overgrowth can occur in times of stress.

Clinical signs: diarrhoea +- blood in faeces, poor growth, stunting, wasting, sometimes can be subclinical, or may have deaths in the mob.

Yersiniosis is a disease that can be transmitted readily and infects many animals. If left untreated, the damage to the lining of the gut can become chronic, resulting in poor growth rates and reduced absorption of nutrients long term.

Treatment is usually successful if caught early, and preventative measures are put in place to further reduce spread in the mob.

Polioencephalomalacia (PEM)

What? PEM is caused by a change in feed quality from poor quality pasture (stalky, high fibre grass) to lush pasture (concentrates, low fibre) which then triggers excess thiamine bugs in the rumen resulting in depletion of vitamin B1 (thiamine).

Clinical signs: staggering, blindness, convulsions, change in mentation, depression, muscle tremors, eye changes.

Diagnosis and treatment: Veterinary clinical assessment and sampling and treatment.


  • Avoid sudden changes in quality of feed.

  • Avoid brassicas on high sulphur soils

  • Supplementation is possible if your farm is getting annual outbreaks.

Treatment is effective if given early.


What? BVD is a virus that is transmitted by faeces, semen, embryo, nose to nose contact and vectors. BVD causes massive production losses, repro losses, and more.

Clinical signs: Poor growth, diarrhoea, decreased milk yield, fever, ulceration in the mouth, repro losses – abortions, congenital defects.


  • Testing, testing, testing! Contact your vet today to organise testing.

  • Cull PI animals

  • Vaccination

  • Biosecurity

There are many other diseases seen in weaner calves; this is a small list of some of the commonly encountered problems.

Please don't hesitate contact the clinic if you have any questions.


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