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Caffeine Perks up Calves, Too


Many calf raisers rely on the caffeine from a pre-dawn cup-a-joe or midday Mt. Dew to perk themselves up and become more alert.


It turns out that struggling calves could benefit from that same caffeine-induced jolt.


Veterinarian Nathan Upah, ruminant technical leader for TechMix, explained that we feel the effects of caffeine so quickly because the stimulus is absorbed via the mouth. He described the oral mucosa as a psychological shortcut that can be used to stimulate the cardiac system.


For decades, human medical doctors caring for premature infants have prescribed caffeine to treat apnea of prematurity, which causes lapsed breathing and oxygen deprivation. The treatment has proven to successfully promote lung and neurological development in premature babies.


Calves, too, can struggle with oxygen deprivation, particularly if they have endured a difficult birth (dystocia), become excessively chilled, or are slow to regain vigor after recovering from an illness like scours.


When newborn calves are lacking oxygen, it can interfere with their ability to fully absorb the beneficial contents of colostrum. Upah said low blood oxygen can reduce passive transfer of immunity, resulting in lower total blood protein concentrations, compared to calves that are fully oxygenated at the time of colostrum feeding.


Little clinical research has been performed evaluating caffeine in calves. But its stimulus activity in humans, and benefits to premature infants, include increases in both heart rate and respiratory volume. Additionally, the diuretic effect of caffeine could theoretically help remove excess fluid and reduce inflammation.


Caffeine jump-starts dull and lethargic animals by blocking the effects of adenosine, which is a chemical in the brain that causes generalized depression.


So how do you deliver caffeine to calves? Dr. Sheila McGuirk, Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, has recommended giving one bottle of an energy shot – such as 5-hour ENERGY® – to struggling calves orally, which provides 100-200 mg of caffeine. Many convenience-store energy drinks contain concentrated green tea extract, which is classified as a “Generally Regarded as Safe” (GRAS) feed ingredient by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.


Another option is a supplement from TechMix formulated specifically for calves called Calf Perk®. It delivers a caffeine-induced attitude boost by coating the tongue and roof of the mouth, naturally increasing body temperature and respiration rate. This time-lapse video shows the rapid improvement in alertness and vigor over the course of 30 minutes in a lethargic newborn calf that received Calf Perk.


As with all treatments, be sure to consult with your veterinarian about the use of caffeine in your calves.


By MAUREEN HANSON

December 8, 2022


dairyherd.com

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