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Bargain basement calf and bloat

Cattle prices are where I wish they were when we had a nice herd. Of course not, lol. We sold off our cattle, with the exception of one old pet, and we’re hoping to build another herd over time. Bought a Hereford cross heifer last year that may work out well. She and our old cow are hopefully settled now after a visit from a bull.

All this is for beef way down the road. We were hoping to put something in the freezer next year. Hence, bargain basement 4 month old calf.

For those that aren’t familiar, calf prices get pretty steep once they start gaining and filling out. This little steer was cheaper because he was thin (bad sign) and small. But, I raised my own cattle for 15 years. I know cattle, right? Nope. I know well-cared for cattle. Bargain calves are a different story.

I bought the calf Monday afternoon. He came, not from a cattle person, but from a wannabe cow poke who was selling off his summer roping toys. Poor little calf has been jerked off his feet who knows how many times. I looked him over. No obvious broken bones from roping. Neck looks alright. Thin and stressed, but okay. Wannabe cowboy tells me he fed him up to full grain (alarm went off…a small 4 month old fed like a feedlot steer?!). Then he tells me there was a bloating issue (ya think?!). I look again. Calf looks stable so he must have been treated for bloat. No grain in his pen. Guy says he’s on hay but could get a pound of grain twice a day without an issue. I shrugged it off (second mistake). I’ve dealt with cows getting in the feed room bloat before with a baking soda slurry.

No, my current self wishes to tell my past self, a little acidosis bloat from a one time event is far different from over feeding a very young animal grain without the requisite knowledge and systematically destroying their rumen.

Yeah, nice little tidbit of info I should’ve known but didn’t.

As we were loading the calf, he chomps down some grain from another pen. Should be alright. Guy said he could get some grain. Got him home and settled in. Three hours later, he’s bloating. Treated him with the baking soda slurry and got a few eruptations. He gets a little better and then the gas builds again. Bargain calf gets an emergency vet visit. Tubing to remove the gas, rumen treatments, antibiotics for pneumonia (I should’ve known a stressed, thin calf likely had pneumonia). Bargain calf isn’t such a bargain anymore. Now I understand the systematic destruction that happens to that most amazing rumen when a moron wannabe cowpoke think they know a thing or two about cattle ‘cause they can swing a rope.

Since then, “Pete” has done well on hay. I give him some grass a couple times a day. Time is the only thing that will heal up his gut. I will slowly introduce alfalfa to help him gain weight, once he’s stable.

This morning, he had a mild bloat, so I pulled out the flexible tubing and pvc section and off gassed him again. This might need to be done a few times a week until he gets better. Luckily, we prefer grass fed cattle anyway.

So, in short, beware the bargain calf. You’re not safe if they’re on feed and hay. Idiots abound and pushing too much grain will throw the calf into a downward spiral.

Also, wannabe cowpokes suck.


Two morals there: “beware the bargain”, and “idiots abound.” Could throw in “wannabe cowpokes suck,” too, especially if you’re an animal (see the 2raw2ride saga thread for a publicized example).


Good luck to little Pete!

A few years ago we picked up four bargain basement calves. They would have been less than two months old when we got them. One was an angus cross who was healthy and gained really well, so he paid for his friends to basically be rescued. Three cute little jersey steers. All very thin. One was too weak to stand and had scalding on his legs from peeing on himself. One was ok, just thin. And one had pneumonia.
Luckily it wasn’t too expensive getting them back on their feet. Proper nutrition and time.


By the time you get him healthy and freezer ready you will be thinking of him as a giant pet :wink:


Pete is not going anywhere. He is a member of your family now. Too much time, energy, and resources have been used on him.

Please post pictures of Pete.

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Oooh no! He’ll be annoying the cows and their calves by this time next year. When we had our own herd and the steers were big and ready, they would pester the cows a lot. I swear some of the older cows would give me a look, like, “Isn’t this one ready, yet?!”


Nah, he’ll have a good, but short, life. There’s really no place for a steer with the cows and calves.


I see you guys enabling here. :rofl:

What if I post a picture and YOU guys get attached?

Little calf is halter broke now. He even leads and ties. It’s amazing what desperation accomplishes. Plus, he probably learned to yield to a rope, in general, from all the rough handling during roping practice. I know there are lots of people who rope cattle, but those are usually much bigger than this steer. Plus, they usually have horns. This guy must have been roped around the neck. On a ranch setting, that’s not going to happen very often to the calves. Roping arenas? Over and over again, for time. One of the first things I learned when I worked on a ranch is never hire a rodeo cowboy. Too rough on your stock.


Maybe… and I am already attached and invested in Pete’s wellbeing. :rofl:


At just 4 months he should be on something besides hay if he is not getting milk ( via cow or replacer).
Calf starter is common but since I have no idea what " full grain" means to this man ( how much is that?) it is hard to believe he was getting much of anything if he is thin and has pneumonia.

Pneumonia ( to me) would be more in line with his bloating issues, not grain, I could see him getting accidosis or even founder if he was getting too much grain, but his lack of condition tells me he wasn’t on “full anything”.

He just sounds compromised health wise all around and stressed and you always get what you pay for. The price of cows/ calves is over the top right now. Anything at a bargain price is no bargain.

I hope he turns around , they can be so fragile. He does need more than hay any chance of getting him on calf starter? Just start slowly.


Hahaha! I take no responsibility.

He got bolused with more meds today. He’s pretty easy to catch. Afterwards, I gave him long stokes down his back. One of Dr. Grandin’s tricks for calming calves. It worked well. He was very calm and leaned on me. The little jerk.


Full grain means free choice corn mix, like you would use on feedlot cattle. We gave our calves creep feed to supplement their milk, but it was limited! This guy said he’d just started him on full grain.

The vet was complaining about how she sees it every year. One person will try it with terrible results. I had no idea people were that stupid.

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I would love to be attached. Let’s go PETE!!!


Vet said nothing but hay for a week. Then, maybe just a little alfalfa. This was an assault on his rumen. We’re building him back up with probiotics (to help his gut while he’s on antibiotics for pneumonia) and calmed down with therabloat and the other bismuth type med (forgot the name). We know there was serious damage to his gut.it could be basic mechanical damage that will heal quickly or longer lasting nerve damage or abscess. Next week, I can slowly add the alfalfa if he tolerates it.


He is so chonky!!

Thank you :heart:


The legs show what he could be. Very bony under that hair.

We had a busy day with Pete. His lungs are still a little raspy when listening with the stethoscope. Tubed him once because he looked a little bloated this morning. Sent Therabloat down the hose. We bolused him with meds twice. He was a good boy. He looks better tonight.


Pete was bloated again overnight. Little guy looked like a freaking blueberry when I went to feed at dawn. The gas whistled through the hose when I got it in place, but he had a rough night. He was a little cold afterwards, so I blanketed him for a few hours until he felt better. He’s eating now and his sides look much better. I’m not sure he’s going to make it, but I’ll keep trying. If he gets to where he’s suffering, we’ll put him down.


The cowpoke said he dewormed and vaccinated him. Yeah, I’m not taking his word for it. That belly looks wormy to me. As soon as the vet says he’s stable enough, we’ll do all that again.

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But under your care, he will be chonky soon.

Sorry to hear about his rough night.

Poor Pete.

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