Feeding Electrolytes to Calves: 7 Essentials to Remember
Feeding electrolytes to calves can be a very valuable tool to use when your calves are sick. When a calf comes down with scours giving electrolytes should be the first thing that you do. Many people don't feed enough electrolytes, feed too much, mix electrolytes with other products, or feed inadequate electrolytes. Follow these 7 guidelines to ensure your calves are getting everything out of the electrolytes you are giving them:
1. Dehydration: Needs to be corrected immediately. Electrolytes will replace the lost water and minerals during times of scours. There are 4 different stages of dehydration to be aware of, they are:
-Slight: 5-6% dehydration with no clinical signs
-Mild: 6-8% dehydration with sunken eyes, dry mouth and increase in skin tent time up.
-Moderate: 8-10% dehydration with a loss of body weight, eyes are sunken in more, dry mouth and a increase in pulse rate.
-Extreme: 10-14% dehydration with the calf being unresponsive, body is cool to the touch and a low pulse rate.
2. Beware of Supplements:
-Not all electrolyte supplements are made for scouring calves.
-Some are just for use in times of stress and don't have the proper amounts of nutrients to rehydrate the calf during scours.
-Make sure that your electrolyte is not just a supplement and that it has the proper ingredients and amounts of those ingredients.
3. Quality of Electrolytes:
-Determine the quality by using the Strong Ion Difference (SID) formula.
-SID= ( Na + K) – (Cl)
-This tells you the mEq/L. An optimal SID is between 50-80 mEq/L.
- A good electrolyte supplement should contain:
-Sodium: 70-120 mEq/L
-Chloride: 40-80 mEq/L
-Potassium: 10-20 mEq/L
-Alkalinizing agent: 40-80 mEq/L
-If your current supplement does not contain these or at the amounts suggested you might want to consider another electrolyte supplement.
5. Feeding Amount:
-Depending on how dehydrated your calf is determines how much electrolytes they need.
- An example:
-A calf weighing 90 lbs or 41 kilograms that is 10% dehydrated.
-The calf has already lost 4.1 L of liquid (41 kg x .10 = 4.1 L)
-So you need to give this calf an additional 4.1 L of liquid in addition to its usually amount being fed.
-If the calf is drinking 3 L of liquid normally then you will give is 3 L + 4.1 L = 7.1 L to get it fully re-hydrated.
6. Don't Mix:
-One of the biggest mistakes that producers make is just adding electrolytes to the calf's liquid that they are already getting.
-One of the most important things to do is to get the calf fully hydrated again.
-This needs to be done by giving additional liquid.
-So give your calf it normal liquid and then give then the electrolyte supplement in addition.
7. Feeding Time:
-When feeding electrolytes to calves you should feed them their regular liquid feeding and then feed them the electrolyte supplement.
-If you have a AM/PM schedule you could feed electrolytes at noon and if more is needed you can give another feeding a few hours after the PM feeding.
Feeding electrolytes to calves is a great tool to use when you have sick calves. Keeping these guidelines in mind will greatly help you increase your calf's ability to recover faster. Making sure that you have the correct amount of ingredients and giving the calf the right amounts of liquids are essential to get the calf re-hydrated and back to its full potential. Also make sure that you are not just mixing the electrolyte supplement in with the calf's normal amount of liquid. When the calf is dehydrated they need electrolytes and additional liquids to regain what they have already lost.
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