Farm Ireland

Monday 23 April 2018

Prevention better than the cure with intestine infection

A calf suffering from scour and a naval infection.
A calf suffering from scour and a naval infection.

Charles Chavasse

Scour occurs when the lining of the intestine is damaged. As a result the calf will produce watery faeces and in severe cases this can lead to dehydration and ultimately death.

To identify the causes of scour, samples need to be taken for laboratory tests, but the age of the calf when signs first appear can be an indicator of the most likely possible causes, as Table 1 (below) shows.

Once a calf is identified as having scour, it should be isolated to help reduce the spread of infection and fed electrolyte solutions in addition to its usual milk feeds.

Prevention is better than the cure and vaccines are available for rotavirus, coronavirus and E. coli K99. These vaccines need to be given to the dam before the cow calves. The vaccines boost the antibodies in the colostrum.

The vaccines rely on good colostrum management to work. Good colostrums management goes back to the 1-2-3 method of getting three litres of colostrum from the first milking into the calf within two hours of being born.

Cryptosporidia are often secondary to other scour problems and are generally associated with less than ideal hygiene and are seen as a problem later in the calving period when infectious levels start to rise.

Halofuginon can be used to prevent further cases of crypto on farms where a diagnosis has been made. Coccidisis is generally not seen in calves less than three weeks of age but can cause disease in calves both before and after weaning.

It is often associated with a period of stress, eg weaning, poor weather, over-stocking. The life cycle takes approximately three weeks and once the calf starts to show signs of scour, considerable damage may already have occurred to the intestines.

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For this reason it is beneficial to start preventative treatment before signs occur, either by strategic dosing using diclazuril or tolturazil or using an in-feed coccidiostat like decoquinate.

The advantage of using in-feed medication is that it is used over a 28-day period, so the specific period of risk does not have to be as accurately predicted.

Irish Independent