A newborn calf is having trouble with its front feet. When the calf is up and walking, his feet seem weak and tend to bend under so the calf is walking on the first joint. He is getting better the second day but is still having this problem and doesn’t seem to come to full flexing of his feet . He is very long and about 95 pounds. This is the first time I have experienced such a situation. What is the cause and will the condition improve?

Calves may be born with a number of limb deformities for a variety of reasons. The most common is called contracted tendons, which sounds like what you are describing. Contracted tendons is an inherited condition, but position in the uterus may also play a role. At birth the pastern and fetlock joints are flexed and cannot be fully extended. These calves often “knuckle-over” and walk on the front of their pastern and fetlock joints.

Many calves with contracted tendons recover without treatment. More severe cases may require splints, casts, or surgery, and the worst cases may not respond to treatment.