Plan for a successful calving season

Plan for a successful calving season
Plan for a successful calving season
Plan for a successful calving season
Plan for a successful calving season
Plan for a successful calving season
Planning ahead for calving season means scheduling jobs to the benefit of the calves due to be born for example:
  • preparing calf pens
  • colostrum storage facilities
  • scour vaccinations
Anyone who has had an outbreak of rotavirus calf scours will tell you about the heartbreak and financial losses they endured as this awful disease spread through their calf pens.

Farmers always ask - Why does this happen? How can I prevent this? The answer is not always simple.

New-born calves are born without the protective immunity of antibodies because, in cattle, they are not passed across the placenta to the foetus. Thus, when calves are born in the mud, muck, and rain and then transported to a calf pen they are being exposed to pathogens without any protection. Calves need about two litres of good quality colostrum within four hours of birth - ideally within 1 - 2 hours - and four litres within 12 hours to get their necessary immunoglobulins (antibodies). Timing is key! The intestines in calves are filled with little holes that specifically let antibodies through. However, after 12 hours from birth these holes slowly decrease in size and by 24 hours after birth these holes are gone, meaning antibodies won’t be absorbed into the bloodstream anymore. So, it’s vital to provide calves with adequate colostrum within 12 hours or their immunity can be compromised.

Another important factor is the quality of colostrum. Using a Brix refractometer reader is an easy way to tell if your colostrum is high-quality. If it’s over 22 percent according to Brix, it’s good enough to feed to newborn calves. Ask your vet more about this if you’re not sure. The refractometer costs less than $100 and will give you a lot of information that will help you set up the essential immune system of your calves.

Finally, you can boost the colostrum quality by using scour vaccines. A single calf scours vaccine injection is given during each pregnancy 3-4 weeks before calving and it boosts the production of antibodies that work against rotavirus, coronavirus, and E. coli K99. Again, it is important to reiterate that once you have vaccinated your cows, colostrum management needs to be top priority. Calves must have 3 to 4 litres of first milking colostrum within the first 6-12 hours of life to absorb the necessary antibodies from the vaccination. If the colostrum is not given on time you will lose the window where calves absorb the antibodies. Calf scours vaccination is a strategy that needs to be implemented alongside excellent hygienic practices in the calf pens in conjunction with excellent colostrum management. June is the ideal time to be vaccinating spring calving herds for rotavirus, so book your appointments soon!
Plan for a successful calving season

Date Added: Tuesday, 2nd June 2020


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