Dystocia can lead to hypoxia and acidosis, and calves with acidosis have been shown to be more likely to have failure of passive antibody transfer (FPT) from colostrum, apparently due to decreased ability of these calves to absorb antibodies, says Amelia Woolums, DVM, PhD, MVSc, Dipl. ACVIM, Dipl. ACVM.

“Of course hypoxia can also affect nervous system function, so calves experiencing dystocia have at least two reasons to develop FPT – they may be slow to move and ‘dumb’, because of decreased oxygen delivery to their central nervous system, so they may not be neurologically capable of getting up and nursing enough colostrum fast enough for timely absorption of antibodies.”

Also, they may not be able to absorb antibodies from the colostrum efficiently enough to support adequate passive antibody transfer, even if they do get some colostrum into their gastrointestinal tract. “That’s why it makes particular sense to administer colostrum to a calf born from a significant dystocia if the calf seems at all weak or slow at birth,” Woolums recommends. “Because such calves may not absorb antibodies efficiently, it also makes sense to give these calves a relatively larger volume of colostrum, within reason and the calf’s anatomic limits.”

For more information on managing dystocia calves, visit www.bovinevetonline.com and search for “dystocia calves.”