Lets say we have a calf at a few weeks old doing great and every thing was fine. The next day we find the calf unable to stand. We help the calf to it’s feet but once up it falls back down or walks with very little mobility. The legs seem fine you can move them around but once the calf falls they lock straight out stiff. You can move them back under the calf, but it noticeable the calf is in discomfort. It may have one or two swollen joints.
This is harder to realize what is happening. The problem is not in the legs but something completely different. Here is a question I found.
“hi - have a two month old calf down and he can't stand. first noticed it looked like he just has sprained right front knee (swollen) and wasn't able to bear weight. two days later, he is now unable to stand. i've been standing him up and holding him (weight off front leg, thinking his back legs are asleep due to extended laying down) flexing and massaging the legs. legs will flex pretty readily - including the swollen one. lays with his head and neck down, except periods when he arches his head and neck above his shoulder. (could be looking for momma) good appetite, wet nose, no mucus, no diarrhea.”This question is great to describe the problem. The way the calf is moving it’s neck, a swollen joint, and unable to stand tells me right away what the problem is.
Here is what can get tricky. The calf could not have had a swollen joint and could have had mucus. The author does not mention the legs locking straight out which can or cannot happen but most of the time I find the calf legs will do this.
So what wrong with the calf?
Mycoplasma pneumonia. In people, we commonly call it “walking pneumonia.” In cattle, we commonly refer to the illness as “silent pneumonia.” The reason why is the calf can walk around without coughing or showing any signs of illness like mucus until the calf cannot stand. The illness goes unnoticed and the calf still takes milk and/or eating until swelling around the brain causes a loss a motor skills. The bacteria causing the swelling around the brain will also settle in the joints causing them to swell as well.
Mb bacteria are everywhere that causes mycoplasma pneumonia in calves. Each calf has some of the bacteria in them and it is around in the air and carried on containers or other supplies around the farm. It only becomes a problem with the calf’s immune system is weak. The calves own defenses are unable to fend off the illness. That is way it occurs more often in calves under two months old. In the first two months calves immune system are at their weakest and any other illness like scours or dehydration can start the growth of the bacteria causing mycoplasma pneumonia.
Silent pneumonia’s bacteria grows rapidly and spreads quickly once it gets a foot hold it is hard to cure. It is a very common illness for calves. Antibiotics have a hard time killing the bacteria. That is what makes this illness so dangerous. It is everywhere, you don’t see any signs until it is almost too late, and hard to treat.
But there are treatments and cures available from veterinarians. There are drugs and injections that can only be gotten from a veterinarian. But when you got a calf unable to stand and holding up it’s own weight, it does have a chance to recover. The following is from:
Virginia Cooperative Extension
John Currin, D.V.M. Veterinary Extension Cattle Specialist
“Mycoplasma is very difficult to treat in calves as well. Several of the commonly used antibiotics do not work well for Mycoplasma. Penicillin, Polyflex®, Naxcel®, Excenel®, and Excede® kill bacteria by destroying their cell walls. Since Mycoplasma does not have a normal cell wall, these antibiotics are ineffective in treating the organism. Micotil® shows little or no activity against Mycoplasma as well.Effective Treatment Drugs for Mycoplasma Draxxin®
Oxytetracycline has produced mixed results in treating Mycoplasma in calves. Tulathromycin (Draxxin®) is the only drug approved for Mycoplasma and in one study, was the drug most likely to work (Butler et al., 2000). Draxxin® provides the most convenient treatment of mycoplasmosis because one dose provides 7 to 14 days of therapeutic blood levels. Draxxin® cannot be used in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older. Other drugs that show good results are Nuflor® and Adspec®.
The two most important factors in the successful treatment of Mycoplasma infected calves are early recognition and prolonged treatment. Calves that are treated early in the course of the disease respond fairly well, but need to be treated for 10 to 14 days or 50 percent to 70 percent will relapse and require treatment again. Each time a calf relapses it will have more lung damage and be less likely to recover.”