PREVENTING CALF SCOURS - Colostrum and good husbandry go hand in hand

PREVENTING CALF SCOURS -  Colostrum and good husbandry go hand in hand
By Rachel Hamill, Anexa FVC Veterinarian

Good quality colostrum, given in a timely fashion at an appropriate volume will go a long way to ensuring your next batch of calves are healthy and strong. Antibodies in the colostrum are like the army that protects the calf’s body from invaders (the pathogens).

Minimising calf exposure to pathogens (through good hygiene and calf shed management) is also very important - the fewer invaders there are, the easier and quicker it is for the antibodies to kill them. When there are a lot of pathogens attacking at once, the antibody army can be overwhelmed and the calf can fall sick.
Colostrum management and calf husbandry go hand in hand. Getting both of these aspects right is the key to prevention.

Top husbandry tips:

  • Treat your calf trailer like a calf pen in its own right – in some ways this is the highest risk pen, as every calf born this season must pass through it at some point. Hose out and disinfect the trailer daily with a disinfectant effective against viruses
  • Do not overcrowd calf pens. There should be no more than 60 calves per airspace and each calf should have a minimum of 1.5 m2.
  • Try to keep the age difference between calves in each pen to a minimum – no more than 7 days age difference between the oldest and the youngest calf in each pen
  • Pens should have solid partitions to prevent nose-nose contact between pens. If calves can communicate between pens, then your risk of disease spread is vastly increased.
  • Ensure calves have access to water from day 1. Water troughs should be placed at a height that the smallest calf can reach, but high enough off the ground to prevent faecal contamination. Water troughs should be checked twice daily for faecal contamination
  • Bedding should be 200-300mm thick, and should be topped up as required. Do not scrape away old bedding during the season and stir up bugs- it is better to let it lie, but top up with a good layer of fresh bedding.
  • Get down to the calf level and take a deep breath. It should be clean. If you can smell any ammonia or staleness, there is not enough ventilation in the shed and your calves are at risk of developing pneumonia
  • Don’t use high pressure hoses in the calf shed - this may aerosolise the bugs and spray them into the pens. Use a broom to remove contaminated matter and then spray with disinfectant
  • Spray calf sheds with an anti-viral, anti-bacterial disinfectant twice weekly. Do not spray on the calf, but you can spray around her
  • Operate an “all–in , all–out” system, whereby calf movement between pens is limited, or ideally eliminated. Once a calf enters a pen, she should stay in that pen with her penmates, until they all go outside (unless sick, in which case she should be rapidly relocated to a sick pen)

  • What if it all goes wrong….

    Calf scour outbreaks are extremely stressful and upsetting- Despite your care, love and attention, your babies are getting sick and dying. We’re here to help. Our vets are trained for calf scour investigations. Vets on farm in an outbreak can help you get to the root of the problem, provide appropriate treatment plans for sick calves, and stop the problem from happening again in the future.

    Our new lab set up allows us to do tests in-house, which means you can get faster results.

    Tests that our vets will conduct during a scours investigation include:
    • Blood tests looking for Failure of Passive Transfer (FPT) which means that the immune system has not been able to provide protection, due to insufficient colostrum.
    • Colostrum quality tests
    • Faecal cultures, to look for infectious causes of scours. These include E.Coli, Salmonella, Rotavirus, Cryptosporidium, Coccidia and Yersinia.
      Discovering the cause of the scour outbreak means that you can provide appropriate therapy quickly. It can also help you stop an outbreak in its tracks and prevent the problem occurring again. Don’t battle sickness in the calf shed alone; we’re here to help.


    • Date Added: Friday, 7th July 2017


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