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Wobbling around on spindly legs by the time he's 2 to 4 hours old, a newborn calf surveys his environment through his senses of smell, hearing and sight to find their way to their mother's nourishing milk. A calf is born with the ability to open his eyes; he usually can respond to someone passing in front of him by following the person with his eyes.
Detecting a Problem
Vision problems may be apparent immediately or within a few hours of birth. White or cloudy eyes, or inability to show a response to your hand or other object passed in front of the eye, is a good indicator of blindness. Blind newborn calves may have trouble orienting themselves in their environments and may be slow to stand and nurse. Call a veterinarian, as a blind calf may indicate a problem in your herd's health.
If a calf is born blind, have your veterinarian perform a blood test to determine the cause of the blindness. Vitamin A or other dietary deficiencies during fetal development need correcting to prevent future calves from developing vision problems. A vitamin A injection administered by a veterinarian can sometimes restore sight when this is the sole cause of blindness. Bovine virus diarrhea is just one disease associated with blindness in calves. Calves blind from disease usually have additional problems, such as lifelong lack of coordination, and usually need to be culled.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: The Pathology of Blindness in New-Born Calves Caused by Hypovitaminosis A
- Directorate of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services: Animal Health and Disease Control
- National Animal Disease Information Service: Control of Bovine Virus Diarrhea
- Texas A&M Agrilife Extension: Recognizing and Managing Common Health Problems of Beef Calves
- Colorado State University: Managing to Decrease Newborn Calf Problems
- Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images