I recently blogged about Blackie, a calf belonging to Cliff's brother that I was trying to save. I had theories about what was ailing him, but was on uncharted territory. I honestly didn't expect him to live, but he was such a fighter, and developed such a good appetite, that I just couldn't give up on him.
Yesterday when I got him up to give him a bottle, I noticed a swelling about the size of an orange at his naval. I felt it, and it was as hard as a rock. While I've never had experience with naval ill, I had a feeling that's what we were dealing with, so I consulted Dr. Google. What I found explained everything that had happened with that calf: Turns out naval ill, if not treated, turns into joint ill. The disease settles in the joints, causing pain and difficulty walking. You can read about it HERE. It can also go to the eyes, liver, heart, and other organs. I was briefly worried when I read it could be contagious, since we had Blackie in with three of my calves for several days. Further reading told me that it's only contagious to calves in their first week of life.
Had I paid attention to the calf's naval when Phil first brought him over, he could have been saved. Cliff and I had noticed his naval looked damp all the time, but we assumed it was because he was laying on damp ground all the time. Rule number one when dealing with livestock or children: Never assume.
If you go to the link I shared above, you will see that once naval ill has turned into joint ill, unless you have a very valuable animal and can afford to spend lots of money for an offhand chance you might save the calf, it's time to cut your losses.
That's what we did. Cliff called his brother to tell him what was happening, and then he humanely put Blackie down.