Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

December 2001


Published for Proceedings, The Range Beef Cow Symposium XVII December 11, 12, and 13, 2001 - Casper, Wyoming.


Losses of calves in beef herds to Clostridial diseases continues to be a problem. In a large 1991 Colorado study of 47 herds with 11,767 cows reported that two of the most common causes of calf mortality were enteric and sudden death diseases. Both of these entities are consistent with Clostridial disease. Unfortunately, less than 1% of the calves that died were ever presented to a diagnostic lab for confirmation of death and 99% was based on producer perception. A smaller study conducted in 1992-93 of 15 beef herds in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska with 3,273 calves born attempted to at least get a better handle on the extent of Clostridial related disease. In this study, a total of 153 died (4.7%) with 93 calves dying between 48 hours and branding at about 2 months of age. All 93 calves were submitted for field necropsy and sample submission for confirmatory laboratory diagnosis. This was a cooperative effort involving 8 local veterinary practitioners who received uniform training and 2 state diagnostic laboratories. Causes of death were categorized into 1) abomasitis, 2) abomasal ulcer, 3) clostridial enteritis, 4) general enteritis, 5) respiratory/pneumonia, and 5) other causes of death. Samples were submitted to diagnostic labs in Colorado and Nebraska and the information assimilated into the same six categories reported by the practioners. Table 1 reports the association between field necropsy and diagnostic lab results.