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When assessing calf health, it is essential to observe their condition and behaviour.

Using your senses will help to determine if there is any cause for concern.

  • Are the calves drinking and eating as normal?
  • Are their eyes bright and alert?
  • Are their ears drooping?
  • Is their coat soft and shiny?
  • Is there a discharge from the mouth or nose e.g. saliva, mucous or blood?
  • Examine the navel for swelling, redness and discharge
  • Watch the calves moving, standing up and stretching to ascertain steadiness and energy
  • Check the colour and consistency of the faeces for abnormalities
  • Are the calves grinding their teeth, bellowing or coughing?


  • Does the bedding and air smell clean, dry and ammonia- free?
  • Do the faeces smell normal or foul?
  • Check the smell of the milk, meal, hay and water – is it fresh?


  • Any additional products offered to the calves should be palatable and free from moulds


  • Use a digital thermometer to diagnose illness early and monitor treatment. The normal temperature of a calf will vary, but as a guide should be approx. 38°C
  • Compare the temperature of another pen mate before checking the sick calf