Co. Carlow

+353 (0) 59 915 1251
+353 (0) 59 915 1856


Nutribio Ltd.
Tivoli Industrial Estate

+353 (0) 214 507 303
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Dwarfism – Small Calves

Dwarfism – Small Calves

A number of farmers in the west of Ireland have asked for assistance in relation to calves being born very small, with weak legs and joints, and in extreme cases being malformed. More often than not this is as a result of a trace element imbalance, often caused by antagonists in the soil which can prevent the uptake of trace elements such as Copper, Zinc, Selenium, Iodine or, more specific to the cases being spoken about here, Manganese. Phil Rogers, MRCVS, retired from Teagasc Grange describes this phenomenon as follows:

“DWARFISM, SMALL CALVES can arise due to the same factors as cause stillbirth. Severe deficiency of I, Cu or Se can cause the birth of small weak calves. Severe Mn deficiency is a specific cause of dwarfism, with chondrodystrophy, joint laxity, superior brachygnathism and domed foreheads. This is very rare in Ireland. Inherited dwarfism can arise in certain breeds and lines. “Bulldog-calf” (Dexter syndrome) is also inherited. Bovine inherited spinal muscular atrophy also occurs in certain breeds and lines. It manifests as a progressive ataxia, weakness, muscle atrophy and recumbency in calves 0-2 weeks old. Some calves may be stillborn.

WEAK CALVES, NEONATAL or EARLY POSTNATAL DEATH and ILLTHRIFT IN YOUNG CALVES can arise due to the same factors as cause abortion, stillbirth or dwarfism. It can arise also due to NEONATAL INFECTION (pneumonia, septicaemia, scour, etc), sometimes with poor quality colostrum. The causes (apart from specific pathogens) may lie in faulty nutrition of the dam, inadequate feeding or quality of colostrum, poor hygiene, poor calf nutrition, poor ventilation or uncomfortable calf housing.”

Solutions are based on knowledge of the mineral status of the soil and forage, along with a good history of the issue in consultation with your vet and nutritionist.

For further information contact your local Co-Operative Animal Health Area Manager or contact our head office on + 353 (0)59 9151251.

Andrew McInerney, Commercial Nutritionist, Nutribio/CAHL

List of terms:

Chondrodystrophy – Soft (poorly developed) Cartilage

Brachygnathism – Protruding upper or lower teeth / Jaws

Recumbency – Lying down, excessively

Muscle Atrophy – Degeneration of muscle (Muscle wastage)