Prevention the best cure for calf killer

Scour is still by far the number one killer of calves, accounting for close to a quarter of all calf deaths every year.

Coccidiosis is one of the most common types in calves under three months of age. There is no vaccine that can be given to the dam before calving to give protection via colostrum. Therefore, every effort must be made to prevent the build-up of the infective stage of the disease in your sheds.

I say sheds because this disease is typically seen in calf pens, calf houses and general winter bedding. The disease needs a damp environment to become established in sufficient numbers.

It also needs a few calves infected at a low level for several days before a large number of infective organisms build up in the environment.

So you can see how coccidiosis begins slowly as a hidden disease in one or two calves at the outset. The protozoan parasite then builds up in the calf bed to a much greater level as these few calves excrete more and more infective eggs.

Then all of a sudden, the severe scour (often a bloody scour) is seen in almost the entire batch. Meanwhile, farm personnel have been walking in and out of that calf bedding area, and unless strict disinfection points are in place, the disease has now spread to all housing on the farm.

The typical response at this point is to reach for the bottle of antibiotics on the shelf.

But why not roll back a few steps and stop this nasty bug in its tracks in the first instance.

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Preventing coccidiosis:

nClean, dry bedding;

nPrevent wet patches around feeding troughs;

nFix leaks around water troughs;

nPut disinfection points at each shed entrance/exit;

nDip boots regularly between pens;

nClean out old bedding and allow pens to dry out between batches;

nConsult your farm vet if a batch of calves are failing to thrive;

nTake faecal samples from calves showing ill thrift or off their feed;

nThen reach for that medicine.

Irish Independent

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