Bovine Neonatal Pancytopenia (BNP), or Bleeding Calf Syndrome, is a highly fatal condition that can affect newborn calves.

As the name suggests, the symptoms of this disease are bleeding from skin, mucal membranes, and sometimes the intestines.

It only affects young calves, who are under four weeks old, and mothers are usually completely healthy.

While it is deadly to the calf, the disease is carried by the cow, and the symptoms are contracted through her colostrum.


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The disease is caused by antibodies absorbed from this colostrum. These antibodies attack the bone marrow cells in the calf after suckling which almost destroy it completely.

This leaves the calf unable to produce red and white blood cells, leaving the calf without a functioning immune system.

Additionally, their bodies can’t create blood clots, which causes the bleeding effect

While Bleeding Calf Syndrome was linked to a Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) vaccine, the exact nature of the connection is unclear.

A relatively small number of cows are affected by the disease, 16 for every 100,000 vaccinated.


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Genetic factors are another cause of the outbreak of Bleeding Calf Syndrome, which first appeared in 2007.

Studies have shown that for the calf to get the disease, it needs to come from cows carrying certain genes, who have taken the BVD vaccine.

Drug producer Pfizer agreed that the disease is caused by multiple factors, however, they pulled the vaccine, PregSure from the market.

Despite this, there are still incidents of Bleeding Calf Syndrome. This is due to the fact that once a cow has been vaccinated, they are covered for the rest of their lives.

More than 3 million doses of PregSure were sold in the Irish market since its launch in 2005, so it will be quite some time before things clear up.

In the meantime researchers are trying to establish the exact link between PregSure and Bleeding Calf Syndrome so vaccines can be better designed in the future.


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What you can do about it

If your cow’s colostrum causes Bleeding Calf Syndrome once, it will always cause it.

When you know this you can change your approach to their calving and save the calf.

If you can stop the calf from suckling from the trouble dam, they could well make it. However, you need to be down there to make sure of it yourself, which can be tricky.

This is where the Moocall Calving Sensor is effective – the notifications two hours and one hours before calving are highly accurate, and give you time to get on the scene to assist the cow and calf.

Here is the story of one of our customers whose calf would not have made it were it not for Moocall.