Updated March 2015
DAIRY CATTLE MEDICINE KIT
Disclaimer: This information is intended to help the reader understand treatments for dairy cattle. It is not intended to diagnose problems and is only to be used as advice. To treat a sick animal, contact a nearby dairy veterinarian immediately. Always read the labels before administering any medication and follow the directions exactly. We hope this page can at least help you ask the right questions and stimulate your vet to do the most thorough preventative care and treatments.
WHAT YOU CAN INCLUDE IN A MEDICINE KIT FOR A DAIRY COW:
A BOX to hold your equipment:
We use a tackle box for fishing for our dairy supplies. The little compartments are excellent for storing needles and syringes, pills, mastitis tubes, etc. The top bin can hold my larger equipment. If keeping a lot of large bottles, those should be stored upright in a cupboard or box of some sort large enough to hold them all. This tackle box also has room for my chain and handles for pulling calves, Resorb packets, and could fit a large number of small medicine bottles.
LARGE BOTTLES, Non-prescription Supplements:
(Best to keep at least 2 bottles of each on hand. Sometimes, even if a vet is coming to do the work for you, they may not have the appropriate bottles, and this way you can ensure your cow gets proper and PROMPT care!)
CMPK Solution Rx (Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium in Dextrose) Uses: Milk Fever; Grass Tetany
**In some cases, we prefer giving CMPK over simply Calcium, because many times a cow’s imbalance from milk fever or other issues has to do with more than simply a calcium breakdown. This way, a cow gets all four important components in one!
Calcium Gluconate is similar to CMPK, but with only Calcium solution. This may be easier for you to find & is available without Rx. Should be administered IV very slowly. Calcium is often used for milk fever. Did you know: Organic operations use IV Calcium as an effective mastitis treatment!
Dextrose (energy/sugar solution)
Uses: Any situation where a cow is in need of more energy.
How used: Given as one bottle IV (neck vein), sometimes given along with other IV meds (ie. tetracycline, dexamethasone, banamine)
Dextrose is important to keep on hand (if you are inclined to do some of your own vet work) as it is useful for various medical needs.
IV Vitamin C Rx – If you can find it (it’s out there, just very difficult to source!), administering Vitamin C is a very effective method of combating sickness in cattle. The organic dairy industry uses IV Vitamin C along with IV Calcium – primarily for mastitis and other infections.
Uses: To combat severe dehydration (which is usually as a symptom to other issues)
How used: Given as half or full bottle IV (neck vein) and then gives the cow access to plenty of tempered water, she will want to drink!
For cows with milk fever: DO NOT give saline the first time you treat a cow for milk fever. It can over-stress their body and kill them. Instead, wait until the third or fourth time you treat them (presumably, when they are starting to feel better). This will get them to drink and help them rebound more quickly.
Keeping a cow hydrated is one of the most important factors in keeping a sick cow alive.
SMALL BOTTLES, Prescription and Non-Prescription DRUGS:
(Nothing in this section on small bottles of medicines necessarily needs to be kept on hand, as you can get it from the veterinarian as needed. This section is for informational purposes.)
Banamine Rx – Pain killer; Prescription Drug (May come as another name)
How used: If a cow or calf has a sour stomach, banamine works to slow down their system and let them relax. Often, it is enough help to an animal that additional treatment is not necessary. We always keep banamine on hand. While it is not used frequently, it should be available for when you do need it!
Oxytocin Rx – For milk letdown; Prescription drug
How used: Can give .2cc (2/10ths of a cc) in the milk vein (IV) or 1-2 cc IM. IV reaction should show up within 15-20 seconds, IM reactions may take a minute or two to appear. No withdrawal time, oxytocin is a natural hormone that a cow gives, you are just helping stimulate her. Usually needed if a cow does not want to let down her milk for you the few days after calving, or if a stressful event has happened.
Share milking and not getting milk? You may need to move the calf away from the mother. Separation by sight, smell, and noise is imperative if you want your cow to give you milk and not stress over the her baby or hold up for the baby.
Byomycin/Excenel/Nuflor/etc. – Strong Antibiotics; Prescription.
How used: For severe scours in calves or for cows, say if a cow tore her insides at calving. Read label for dosage NOTE: If you give a milking/lactating animal antibiotics, there is a specified withdrawal time (amount of time that you must dump the milk and not use it for human consumption.) WARNING: Always talk with your vet before using any antibiotics. Improper use causes MAJOR problems by creating resistant bacteria.
Penicillin Procaine G (and relatives) – milder Antibiotics; non-prescription. Used for slight cases of scours. Can be used to treat Staph A mastitis.
Dexamethasone Rx – Anti-inflammatory corticosteroid; Prescription only.
How used: IM or IV injection. CAUTION – DO NOT USE ON PREGNANT ANIMALS! Do not use unless absolutely necessary for the life and wellbeing of the animal. Watch for dehydration, as dexamethizone is a diuretic. This is not something you would necessarily keep on hand, but is good to know what it is, in case you need to ask your vet about it. How used: For severe swelling ie. Bruised udder from being stepped on or severe edema at calving time.
(What to keep on hand: Keep calf antibiotic boluses on hand only if you have more than one calving a year or if you are not close to a feed store that supplies them. CMPK/nutrient/charcoal boluses may be helpful at various times throughout a lactation, so can be kept on hand. A magnet should be given only if you think your animal has never had one, and especially if you pasture your animal.)
Long-acting antibiotics –So you don’t have to give antibiotics as often, for continued release. Available OTC.
Directions: For severely sick animals, administer one pill every 3 days as needed. Sustain III boluses are helpful for calves scouring. Please consider “treating” with electrolytes first, most cases of scours can be cleared up that way!
CMPK – Long acting preventative CMPK boluses.
How Used: Before calving, give pills as a preventative measure (amount based on body weight and manufacturer directions). Used when IV methods are not available.
Activated Charcoal –For general diarrhea and upset stomach. Comes in the form of pastes, gels, or boluses.
Nutrient Pills – Enzymes and Vitamins
How Used: To help rebuild a cow’s system after trauma. Comes in various forms and ingredients. Some are specific to certain ailments (ie. Ketosis). For example, TDN rockets: http://www.enasco.com/product/C30151(X)N Or for fresh cows, YMCP capsules: http://www.enasco.com/product/C30141N
Magnets – One per cow. Metal objects a cow ingests will “stick” to the magnet and help prevent the metal from possibly puncturing the stomach lining.
How Used: Given to each animal once in their life (for example, given to each yearling heifer) OR if an animal (that has not had a magnet before) shows symptoms of “hardware disease.” Administer like you would a pill. If you don’t know if the cow has had a magnet, it is okay to give a cow a second magnet. (If you’re curious, you can put a good quality compass near her tummy and it will spin out of control!)
(Keep on hand seasonally. Pastured animals need to be dewormed in SPRING and FALL. When a cow freshens, is a good time to deworm if out of season or if you only deworm once a year. For natural dewormers, see information below.)
(For more in depth reading material: http://fiascofarm.com/goats/wormers.htm or http://www.barnonemeatgoats.com/worms.html I do not vouch for the reliability of these sources, so be sure to double check any information with current medicine labels.)
Ivermectin, pour on – Cheapest is to get a dose from your vet or have the vet apply to the animals when out for a farm call. For example, Cydectin Pour-on or Eprinex, can be used seasonally (fall/spring pasture times) and has no milk withdrawal time.
Natural wormer– a mix of herbs, sold a few places or you can mix up your own. Must be used frequently to be effective. Some wormers are weekly, monthly, or biannual and can be used in combinations for effective treatment. http://fiascofarm.com/goats/wormers.htm
A natural wormer made up of: Ginger Root, Diatomaceous Earth, Neem Bark, Garlic, Yucca Root. 2 boluses per animal, every 3 weeks. http://www.dairyss.com/eliminate_bolus.html
In animals that we are not milking, garlic is a favorite easy dewormer – often animals will eat it right out of your hand!
MASTITIS TREATMENT TUBES:
(We recommend keeping a few lactating cow tubes on hand in case of emergency, as mastitis must be treated swiftly to prevent permanent damage to the udder. Dry treatments can be purchased through a vet when the time comes to dry off cows, but is only necessary if the cow is in less than ideal living conditions or a known mammary problem has taken place: mastitis, high somatic cell count, damaged teat end, etc.)
Cannula: A small white tube that is inserted into the cow’s teat end for medical treatments. This would be what is on the end of a mastitis tube. NEVER push anything up into your cow’s teat end unless instructed to by a vet (such as for administering antibiotics or milking a damaged teat) and ALWAYS clean the teat end thoroughly with an alcohol wipe.
Mastitis Tubes: (Some are Rx, some are OTC)
For treating high somatic cell or inflamed mammary tissue. Tubes are also handy for eye scratches or on deep, hard-to-reach wounds. Again, remember these are ANTIbiotics, and should be used only when necessary. For more on treating mastitis click here.
Lactating Cow Tubes:
- Dariclox – Lactating cow treatment, Rx.
- *Spectramast LC– A very effective lactating cow treatment, Rx.
- Today – The one you will most likely find at a farm store, not Rx, generic and mild.
- Pirsue – Also Rx, and very effective for certain types of mastitis.
If your milk has been tested by a dairy lab, they may give you instructions as to which tube would be best to use to treat that particular infection (also found on mfg. labels.) We do not recommend treating a cow with antibiotics unless you have consulted with a vet or knowledgeable dairy farmer. Be sure to take milk samples before starting antibiotics. Even if you start treatment before lab results are back, the lab work can identify the pathogen and direct your course of action from there. Follow directions on package. Read labels about milk withdrawal!
Dry Cow Tubes:
- Spectramast DC – Dry cow version of Spectramast, Rx.
- Tomorrow – Dry cow version of Today, non-Rx.
- *Quartermaster – Hard core dry cow treatment
Directions for dry cow treatments: Warm tube in a tub of hot water to soften up the paste. Milk the cow out completely. This is your LAST milking. Insert contents of one tube per quarter in all four quarters or into one or two particular “problem” quarters. DO NOT milk her out again after this treatment. Be sure to note milk withdrawal time when the cow calves in again!
NEEDLES AND SYRINGES:
(Always keep a box of each type of needle on hand. They are helpful for any of your animals. They are sterile as long as they are kept dry and capped.)
½ cc – For administering Oxytocin into the milk vein.
5cc – Other injections, various uses.
60cc – For large doses that are mixed into a Dextrose bottle.
We once used the 60cc size of syringe to wash out a wound with diluted iodine water, so they do come in handy!
Syringes may even be useful in the house for measurements, such as when you are MAKING CHEESE! (Measuring rennet, calcium chloride, or other liquids.)
Syringe can be reused in some cases where things do not need to be sterile, but never re-use a needle.
Other tools and medicines:
IV tube– Attaches to bottle on top and inserts into needle on bottom. Make sure the bottle has a bubble coming up through the center of the container when IV is in progress. Also, make sure the fluid is going into the vein and not pooling under the skin around the vein. You can know by taking off the tube from the needle and you should see blood flowing out of the back of the needle if it is inserted correctly. (Try to keep one on hand – the farm store will be out of them when you need one!)
- Pull back pin (in picture, it is already pulled out, to the left in the picture.)
- Insert number of boluses. (Picture shows one inserted and one not inserted.) Gun holds up to 3 large pills (smaller pills tend to lodge inside, so a smaller balling gun should be used for small pills).
- Stand on the right side of the cow. Insert gun into the back of the cow’s mouth toward the right side of her jaw (for proper access/alignment with the throat) and gently and squeeze the gun handles together to push pills out. Remove gun.This is harder than it sounds – cows don’t like pills down their throat!
- There is also a cheaper plastic version of this gun that holds one pill.
Make sure you buy the better quality ones, they’re worth the effort if the time comes that they are necessary! The rubber grips on the handles are also helpful.
See: Calving Preparation
Rectal Thermometer – Normal cow temperature is just above 101 degrees F (101.5). Many diseases can be further identified by whether or not a cow has a fever (high or low). Some ailments create fevers, others do not, so temperature is important to know.
Ketosis Strips – Like a pH strip, it indicates ketosis. Brand name Ketostix. Cheap, but they need to be stored properly to maintain freshness.
For just a boost to an off-feeling calf or scouring calf, you can give Resorb between feedings if the calf can handle the extra liquid.
Probiotics– Very helpful for boosting digestion in sick calves when they are sick and have been on antibiotics. Generally used more for bottle/bucket fed calves. Also helpful for cows. The container may look expensive, but there are many doses within one bottle. An excellent variety is Fastrack. http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.html?pgguid=30e07a8b-7b6a-11d5-a192-00b0d0204ae5&gas=fastrack
KEEP IN FREEZER (not fridge, not room temp) to extend life!
Beneficial Yeast – Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a yeast that can be added to a cow’s feed as a supplement. It is expensive, but a little goes a long ways, kind of like probiotics. Yeast and bacteria work together for the best benefits. Excellent benefits on feed efficiency for lactating cows. Diamond V and Emmert are two brands of yeast that feed stores carry in bulk (50#).
Beet Pulp – Fibrous material that helps prevent stomach problems and also improves hair coat. Can be purchased at feed stores in 50 pound bags. Available pelleted or shreds, both work well. Soak warm for use immediately (let soak 20 minutes, but use within a few hours) OR soak with cold water for use at next at milking time (every 12 hours). If you’re concerned about GMO or pesticides, be cautious which brands you purchase, as sugar beets are notoriously yucky. Click here for instructions on making your own beet pulp.
Hydrogen Peroxide – Use to clean out wounds. If treating a cow for an infection (for example: sores between leg and udder or hoof rot), I like to scrub with peroxide and clean out all the dead tissue before treating with antibiotics or herbs. We buy the one gallon 30-35% peroxide and dilute down. Wear gloves when handling the concentrate, but uses a lot less plastic from container and stays fresh. Peroxide can also be used as a teat dip, commercially prepared with emollients, because plain peroxide can be drying.
Iodine – There are different forms and strengths of iodine. The regular bottle from the store pharmacy can be diluted and used on wounds or as a great treatment for ringworm (diluted to “tea” strength with water). Iodine is also used as a common type of teat dip. These dips are formulated as pre- or post-milking dips and may have additives such as emollients. Higher strength iodine is used to dip the navel of newborn calves.
Trace Mineral Block/Salt Block/Loose Salt – Vitamins, Minerals, and Salt are very important to animals, but especially dairy animals. Lactating animals push huge amounts of nutrients through their system every hour of every day, and they need to eat a lot to stay healthy. A salt block or trace mineral block are important, plus gives a cow something to do (lick…lick…lick)! Loose salt is super important for dairy animals because they often can’t lick enough off a block to meet their needs.
Loose Minerals – Free-choice loose minerals are extremely important to a dairy cow. We even offer minerals to the calves in a bucket. Keep the minerals in a dry area. Click here to read more.
Mineral helper: You can make a board with mineral blocks containing a different block for each different mineral. For example, a block for a copper pipe, a block for a zinc plate, a block for selenium, and so on. Then, you can see which nutrients you are lacking for your cow by monitoring which ones the cows consume and you can consider specific supplements. A fun science lesson for kids, too!
Frozen or powdered colostrum – When a cow calves, often she produces more colostrum that the baby needs. The extra colostrum from the first three milkings can be frozen and stored for future use. Only store colostrum from healthy cows that are tested/vaccinated against transferable diseases. If fresh colostrum is unavailable, powdered colostrum may be available at farm stores. Note: beef ranchers may be interested in buying your excess frozen colostrum in case they have a cow die or reject their calf.
Rena’s Drench for ketosis, etc.: http://familycow.proboards.com/thread/28171
Garlic Tincture for respiratory illness, etc.: https://www.lancasterag.com/CEG-Tincture-32-oz/item/011108032
A final thought: Have you ever noticed a cow chewing her cud? It is a process where the cow, after eating her grass or hay, regurgitates the feed and chews on it with her back teeth. (Up front, the cow only has teeth on the bottom, good for grabbing grass.) You might see her jaws moving around or a big blob in her cheek, like a chipmunk. This is an excellent sign, because happy cows chew cud and cudding is essential to a healthy rumen.