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Calf Boluses and Sick Baby Goats


A calf bolus is a long slender bright blue pill that is used to treat several bacterial infections. The drug is Sulfamethazine and the bolus is slow release so it gives longer lasting protection than an injection would.    Since it is called a CALF bolus I think it’s clear that this drug is designed for and tested on cattle but it’s also used on other ruminants like goats.

The bolus is introduced into the calf or goat’s mouth by way of a “bolus gun” which isn’t really a gun at all although it does have a plunger that sort of acts like a trigger.

I’ve seen my vet, Dr. Michael Ridlen, give boluses to several of my animals. It takes him only seconds and I have never seen the goats or llamas spit out the pill at the end of the experience. How hard could it be?

Note to self: Any operation that starts out with “How hard could it be?” is destined to be a miserable failure and potentially very funny.

Earlier this spring my goat Paxton had an ongoing problem with diarrhea. We ran fecals on all the goats, wormed them, and then wormed Pax again. Still the diarrhea didn’t stop. Having gotten rid of all the intestinal parasites we were now worried about coccidia, a bacterium that can be very serious in a young animal but is much less of a problem for older goats or cows.   A calf bolus administered over several days was the course of action. Yeah, right.

Note to self: Getting fed up with the awkwardness of the bolus gun should not lead you to try to administer the bolus with your bare hands. Small goats have very sharp back teeth.

Further note to self: Keeping bandages readily available in the barn is a good thing.

Pax is a pretty patient goat, as goats go, but he was not happy about standing in the milking stand and having me try time after time to get that silly blue pill down his gullet. By about the 47th time of spitting most of the pill out he decided it was just easier to chew up the pill rather than continue to have me in his mouth.   What a sweetie.

So imagine my enthusiasm when this afternoon Dr. Ridlen suggested that I put the new little goats on medicated feed and give each ½ calf bolus today and again on Wednesday. The medicated feed is easy. The bolus - not so much.