Keeping beef calves healthy and thriving is order of the day

Beef calves are being delivered at a very fast rate at this time of year.

Most planning and preparation for the calving period is done and dusted by now, so we must focus on keeping those calves healthy and thriving.

The key message is that prevention is always better than cure.

Basic hygiene, clean sheds and utensils, and continuous washing and disinfection are the order of the day.

Vaccination of the dams before calving and the feeding of three litres of colostrum in the first six hours after calving goes a long way towards preventing disease.

Not every calf disease can be prevented by a vaccine programme for the cow.

Cryptosporidia and coccidiosis are examples of problems that cannot be prevented by vaccinating the dam.

However, if a disease is present and the pregnant cow has been exposed to it, then her colostrum is already primed to counter-act such a pathogen.

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But you should never rely solely on this natural immunity.

The best advice is to vaccinate against the calf diseases where a commercially produced vaccine is available.

These include Salmonella, E. Coli, Rotavirus, Coronavirus and Clostridia.

Control of respiratory viruses in the adult cows will go a long way towards reducing pneumonia outbreaks in their calves.

Calves themselves can then be vaccinated, depending on risk and time of exposure.

Peadar Ó Scanaill MVB , is a vet in Ashbourne, Co Meath, and a member of the Food Animal Group of Veterinary Ireland.

Irish Independent

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