Look Out For Dwarf Calves This Spring

The condition, more correctly called Congenital Chondrodystrophy and Joint Laxity, has been recorded for over 20 years in the UK with similar reports across the world.  Over the years, certain areas have seen large numbers of these cases and some years seem to be worse than others.  Interestingly the condition is reported less frequently in England and Wales.       

Many of the diagnoses are made clinically and the range of clinical presentations can include:

  • Disproportionate dwarfism
  • Shortening of the long bones
  • Proximal joints often restricted movement and distal joints showing degrees of laxity
  • Joint laxity may resolve over time, bone changes will not
  • Domed cranium
  • Brachygnathia
  • Some still births/non-viable calves
  • Some calves can not stand
  • Variable severity seen within the group
  • Mainly but not exclusively in single suckled calves born in the spring
  • Some calves are rearable while others are not



Other possible causes of these clinical signs can occur, this website is great for searching suspected autosomal recessive conditions.

Post mortem examination can help define the condition through measurement of long bones and bone/growth plate histopathology and help investigate other possible conditions and causes. It is always hard to investigate specific causes of these conditions when the potential insult to the calf born now, occurred much earlier in the winter.  The precise aetiology of the condition is not known but some of the risk factors are outlined briefly below:

  • Forage only feeding (mainly grass silage) but has occasionally been seen with other forages. Some year’s and some farm’s forages may increase the risk
  • Feeding risky forage during the mid gestation period, correlating to spring calving. There are few issues with calves born after June
  • Manganese deficiency or antagonism
  • Feeding mouldy silage
  • Drought and reduced quantity/quality of available forage


We would be very keen to hear about affected farms you might have with this condition. 

Posted by Veterinary Services on 04/05/2020

Tags: calves, dwarf