beef calf health
Brown beef calf closeup

Calf Health

Healthy Calves: Herd Productivity Starts Here

Now’s the time to lay the groundwork for a vigorous, high-producing herd:

  • It starts with building strong immunity to help protect young calves from infectious agents that can cause respiratory, digestive and other diseases
  • Parasite control and scours management can help minimize roadblocks to healthy growth and weight gain
  • A verified preconditioning program can help you deliver healthy calves that demand more at auction

How can my calves build strong immunity to help fight off disease?

Colostrum management and vaccination are important to help protect young calves from organisms that cause respiratory and digestive diseases. 

Colostrum management

  • Because the cow’s antibodies don’t cross the placenta during pregnancy, the calf relies on the antibodies provided in the dam’s colostrum
  • After four to six hours, the calf’s ability to absorb antibodies declines until 24 hours, when the window closes
  • Make sure calves start nursing as soon as possible after calving
  • As a rule of thumb, the calf should receive about 4 quarts of colostrum during the first eight to 10 hours of life
  • Colostrum replacements may be necessary if maternal colostrum is not available or in short supply
  • To help cow herds produce better quality and quantity of colostrum, provide pregnancy-safe vaccinations and solid nutrition to maintain body condition scores of 5 or 6 before calving

Calf vaccinations

  • As maternal antibodies wane, vaccinations can help protect calves until their immune systems are fully developed
  • Vaccination protocols should be based on the disease risks in your area and the recommendations of your veterinarian
  • Common early vaccinations include those against:
    • Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR)
    • Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) Types 1 and 2, including BVDV Type 1b
    • Bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV)
    • Parainfluenza 3 (Pl3)
    • Mannheimia haemolytica
    • Clostridium spp.
    • Pinkeye (Moraxella bovis)

What can I do to prevent parasitic freeloaders from slowing calf growth?

Internal parasites can reduce weaning weights.1 To help your calves keep gaining, eliminate damaging internal and external parasites.

There has to be a way to minimize calf scours outbreaks.

Calf scours, or neonatal calf diarrhea, is a common source of sickness and death in calves under a month of age. Affected calves can fall behind in performance and never catch up, so early intervention, correction of dehydration and prevention are paramount.

Common causes

  • Viruses: rotavirus, coronavirus, bovine viral diarrhea virus
  • Parasites: Cryptosporidium and coccidia
  • Bacteria: Escherichia coliSalmonellaClostridium perfringens
  • Other: Ingestion of more milk than calf can digest

Clinical signs

  • Watery stools may be green, brown, yellow or gray, +/– blood and mucus
  • Weakness and depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration


  • Work with your veterinarian to identify the cause, so proper treatment can be initiated
  • Analysis of fresh fecal samples and necropsies of dead calves can help determine the cause


  • Isolate sick calves and their dams
  • Replace fluid and electrolytes with oral treatments or intravenous fluids
  • Your veterinarian may recommend nutritional support
  • Provide warmth with deep bedding; shelter calves from wind, rain and snow
  • Depending on the cause, your veterinarian may recommend medications such as antibiotics


  • Ensure newborns receive adequate colostrum
  • Immunize the cow herd against enteric pathogens to help build calf immunity
  • Keep environment clean and free of fecal matter that can carry pathogens
  • Avoid overcrowding and minimize stress
  • Segregate calves by age to avoid exposure to pathogens from older cattle

Raise the healthier calves that attract local buyers.

Industry research studies have shown an average net return from preconditioning, ranging from more than $25 to $33 per head.2,3 The Market Ready® Quality Feeder Calf Program is a convenient, verified program to help you deliver those healthy, high-performing calves buyers demand.

Important Safety Information

EPRINEX IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: No meat or milk withdrawal is required when used according to label. Do not use in calves intended for veal or unapproved animal species, as severe adverse reactions, including fatalities in dogs, may result.

LONGRANGE IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Do not treat within 48 days of slaughter. Not for use in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older, including dry dairy cows, or in veal calves. Post-injection site damage (e.g., granulomas, necrosis) can occur. These reactions have disappeared without treatment. Not for use in breeding bulls, or in calves less than 3 months of age. Not for use in cattle managed in feedlots or under intensive rotational grazing.


Vaccinate Early for Better Calf Performance

Calves that experience summer pneumonia early can weigh dramatically less at weaning than their healthy counterparts. Find out why it pays to vaccinate calves before the stresses of weaning.

Education and Resources

Boost Calf Immunity to Beat Summer Pneumonia

Life should be easy for preweaned calves on pasture. They have yet to deal with the stresses of weaning, transportation or commingling with cattle from other operations. So why should producers be worried about respiratory diseases such as summer pneumonia now?


Three Keys to Quality Colostrum for Beef Calves

Unlike many other mammals, when calves are born, they enter the world lacking any immunity to disease. To build up the defenses they need, calves are wholly dependent on colostrum from their mothers. And the instant a calf is born, a clock begins ticking on its colostrum intake.

red angus beef cow

All Beef Cattle Products

Count on Boehringer Ingelheim for a wide array of products to help keep your beef cattle in good health and at peak performance.

1 Wohlgemuth K, Melancon JJ. Relationship between weaning weights of North Dakota beef calves and treatment of their dams with ivermectin. Agri-Practice. 1988;9:23–26.
2 Donnell J, Ward C, Sweigert S. Costs and benefits associated with preconditioning calves. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Bulletin AGEC-247, Oklahoma State University. 2007.
3 Seeger JT, Grotelueschen DM, Stokka GL and Sides GE. Comparison of the feedlot health, nutritional performance, carcass characteristics and economic value of unweaned beef calves with an unknown health history and weaned beef calves receiving various herd-of-origin health protocols. Bov Pract 2008:42(1);27–39.


EPRINEX®, LONGRANGE®, MARKET READY®, PRESPONSE® and PYRAMID® are registered trademarks and ALPHA™ is a trademark of Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc. DIAQUE® is a registered trademark of Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica GmbH, used under license. ©2021 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., Duluth, GA. All Rights Reserved. US-BOV-0621-2021