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Caffeine Use in High-Risk Calves
Published: March 18, 2022

Caffeine has been used to stimulate calves born from a difficult birth, calves that are cold due to low environmental temperatures, or stressed calves. According to Dr. Zach Janssen, DVM, at Drover’s.com, it was discovered over 40 years ago that caffeine could be used in human infants to stimulate respiration, increasing heart rate and improving circulation. Current research on caffeine in human infants shows that immediate treatment within 48 hours after birth is the most successful. Infants receiving caffeine had improved motor skills and fewer cases of cerebral palsy. Caffeine administration in human infants has been proven to be safe and effective, supplying anti-inflammatory effects and reducing brain cell death. It also improves lung function, reducing heart contractility and blood pressure.

All of this suggests caffeine may have a neuroprotective effect on the nervous system. Healthy lungs are critical in the young animal as it switches from the mother’s blood supply to breathing on its own. For calves, giving a loading dose and then a maintenance dose over several weeks to months is recommended. The initial safe dosage given to a 70 pound calf would be about the same as the dose for an adult human. However, it is important to use a commercial caffeine formulation for calves rather than the supplement packs of caffeine sold at the corner store. Concentrated green tea may be the best oral source of caffeine for calves. You could use coffee, but it would require a large volume and might prevent the calf from getting needed nutrients.

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