|Lil' Bill (Photos by Tom Thompson)|
Lil’ Bill, a calf born weighing less than one-tenth of what most calves weigh, has a story unlike any other. Delivered on Oct. 27, at what veterinarians guesstimate to be about a month premature, Lil’ Bill has already defied the odds by staying alive. He is thought to be the world’s smallest bull, and is currently under the care of the bovine experts at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine (MSU-CVM) in Starkville, MS.
Lil’ Bill came to the MSU-CVM after his owners discovered him in their pasture and had attempted to care for him for a couple days. As a family with much cattle experience, having raised Simmental cattle for many years, Lil’ Bill’s owners knew he was in need of advanced care and sought help from the MSU-CVM on Nov. 1. They had brought cattle to MSU-CVM before, but this situation was unlike any previous visit.
|Dr. Grissett replaces bandages on Lil' Bill's legs|
Lil’ Bill was having trouble breathing, so Dr. Gretchen Grissett and her veterinary team sprang into action, doing what was necessary to keep him alive!
“The calf’s owners really wanted us to save him, and I think they really wanted to keep him, but he was in really tough shape with a lot of respiratory issues when he came to us,” said Dr. Grissett, explaining that just like with premature babies, it is very common for premature calves to not have matured lungs.
When it was time for treatment options to be discussed, the owners decided to treat him initially and then take a wait-and-see approach before electing to pursue further care. Although Lil’ Bill began to improve-- and has done so considerably over the course of the last month—according to Dr. Grissett, he still isn’t out of the woods, and his owners came to the realization they couldn’t properly care for him. Therefore, they allowed the CVM to adopt him.
|Dr. Grissett with Lil' Bill|
At this point, Lil’ Bill is being carefully monitored, 24/7, and his prognosis is undetermined. He is no longer on therapeutic oxygen; his feeding tube has been removed, and subsequent radiographs and bloodwork show that his lungs have improved. However, there are still some unknowns about his actual condition.
Normally, calves weigh around 50-80 pounds at birth, depending upon their breed. With that said, it’s obvious that Lil’ Bill, weighing just 7.9 pounds when he was first brought in, is far from the norm. Dr. Grissett and her team have ordered extensive DNA tests, believing that the calf may have some form of dwarfism, in addition to being premature.
|Lil' Bill with splints to provide adequate support.|
Because he was born too early, Dr. Grissett explained that the team is also having to carefully monitor his joints. “Right now, Lil’ Bill’s bones are not fully developed so we have his legs splinted to provide adequate support. Allowing too much activity on his joints could lead to long-term orthopedic issues for this little guy,” she said. “Many of the issues we are facing with him are, in fact, very similar to those experienced with premature babies. It often takes them months to grow and become as strong as they should have been at birth, and they commonly face development delays and other such problems— if they’re fortunate enough to survive.”
There is some good news, though, according to Dr. Grissett. As Lil’ Bill continues to grow and get stronger, he is behaving much like a typical calf. “Other than sleeping a lot, which is normal for preemies, Lil’ Bill behaves much like most five-week old calves,” she said. “Once awake, he trots around looking for attention, often head-butting team members to demand more milk!”
|Dr. Grissett poses with Lil' Bill|
“I’m feeling much more confident that he will make it, but we definitely still have some hurdles to jump over for him to make a full recovery,” Dr. Grissett said. “We’ll know much more when we have the results of the genetic testing and the other detailed lab work we completed.”
“Most of the time, calves more than three to four weeks premature, don’t have a great chance of survival,” Dr. Grissett said. “Lil’ Bill has beat the odds by making it past his one-month mark. He certainly has the will to survive. Our goal is to make sure he has the very best opportunity to do so!”
|Veterinary medicine students that were on rotation to help with Lil Bill.|
Lil’ Bill may still have a long road ahead of him, but with the advanced care provided by the MSU-CVM, the odds are in his favor! And, he certainly isn’t lacking for fans to provide well wishes. In addition to all the TLC he’s receiving from MSU-CVM students, the tiny calf has garnered more than 100,000 “likes” since his debut on social media, and he has also been featured on FOX News and The Sun.
So, “moooove over and make room, Bully; Lil’ Bill just might be here to stay!”
For updates on Lil’ Bill’s progress, visit.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT THE CVM OUTREACH OFFICE AT (662) 325-1100