Health tips from Dr. Tim O’Neill


The weather is cold one day and then we are in the 60s and 70s the next. This is getting a lot of people and animals sick with respiratory problems. It really helps vaccinating animals properly and feeding proper nutrition.

For vaccines, I recommend Blackleg 7-way, Pinkeye, IBR, BVD, PI3, BRSV, Lepto, Pasteurella Multocida, and Manheim Hemolytica. Some of these can be given only once, but most are given twice, two to four weeks apart. Generally, calves should all be vaccinated for these prior to weaning, with a booster at weaning. This will allow your calves not to be stressed. Stressed calves at weaning may not respond to all of these vaccines, and that is why we only booster what is needed at that time. Then this time of the year they are protected. I have had very good luck doing this for clients. We hardly ever have to treat any or at least the few we treat respond the first injection and are over the sickness. 

For the few babies that are being born right now, the best thing for them is to get more than 1 gallon of quality colostrum with in the first 18 hours of life. And just as a side note I have had a client who milks just a few cows, leave the babies on the cows for the first two weeks. When they started milking them after that, they noticed that the calves were drinking up to 2 gallons of milk daily. Yes, these were Jerseys and Holsteins in a show string. These calves grew like weeds and never got sick. This is what I say about nutrition.

Nutrition is very important and costly, but, well fed cattle do better on the scales and have a lot less sickness. They have the macro and micronutrients that will allow their immune systems to work at its full capacity. You cannot stop them from being exposed, but you can give them all the warriors to help them fight off the insults attacking them in the environment. 

A lot of people have old hay. This can be used to bed them down out of the wind. My dad and I used to put either old hay or straw out for bedding this time of the year. We would put it in the draws on the north and west sides so the wind could blow over the top of them and not directly on them. If we had any trees (in western Kansas), we would put in on the east and south side of the trees to help block the wind. Cattle can handle a very cold temperature if they are well fed, dry and out of the wind. And not to leave out our small animals, general rule of thumb is if you are cold they are cold. Bring them inside.

Now to help in the environment, ever notice how deep the mud and manure get around hay rings, feeders, water troughs and other places? We can help that out by putting down a light layer of granulated lime in those areas. For this I do not recommend ag lime for it is too powdery and can and will affect their mucous membranes. Making the areas look like they got a skiff of snow with granulated lime will kill a lot of bugs in that dirt. In the dairies up north, it has been known to cut foot rot, mastitis and pneumonia. Also, if those water troughs are filthy when we get a warm day drain them and clean them out. Clean fresh water is the No. 1 nutritional ingredient, period.

Stay warm and healthy!

Dr. Tim E. O’Neill, DVM, owns Country Veterinary Service in Farmington, Ark. To contact Tim go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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