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Farm Animal Practice
Differential diagnosis of recumbency in the neonatal calf
  1. Phil Scott

    Phil Scott graduated from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in 1978. For the past 14 years he has worked in the Large Animal Practice at the 'Dick', for the past seven years as director. During this time he has gained the certificate and diploma in sheep health and production, the certificate in cattle health and production, an FRCVS for a thesis on the clinical diagnosis of bovine spongiform encephalopathy and a DVM&S for his studies on the factors affecting the perinatal mortality rate of lambs.


Recumbency, commonly seen in calves less than one week old, poses a diagnostic challenge to the cattle practitioner. This article describes some of the reasons why a calf may be recumbent from birth (often related to trauma during second stage labour) or may subsequently become recumbent at some point following delivery. As with all clinical investigations, it is essential first to obtain an accurate history of the animal and to establish if it was ever able to raise itself and stand unaided. If so, when did the calf become recumbent? Other factors to be considered include the use of traction during parturition and whether the calf became hip-locked during delivery.

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