News & Advice

Caroline Hamilton, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Huntly

Treating calf scours can be expensive, not only due to the cost of treatment but also with the loss associated with the decrease in growth rate of the calf. Often a severely affected calf can take months to recover and may always struggle to grow due to extensive gut damage. At this time of the year we start to see a rise in the number of cases of calf scours caused by Yersinia (bacteria), Coccidia (protozoa) and intestinal parasites (mainly Cooperia) and to a lesser degree Salmonella (bacteria). Often this is associated with a stress period such as transport stress, weaning or coming off meal (no more coccidiostat in the diet) and a cold snap in the weather now they’re out of the shed. Also, they may have been grazing pasture for long enough (i.e. greater than three weeks) to pick up a substantial worm burden particularly if grazing on pasture with a high larval count due to having only young stock graze on it for several years.

The take home messages here to decrease the chances of this happening to your young stock are:

Plan your young stock pastoral care

Often the disease starts in the less well grown or younger calves in a mob who are unable to compete for food with the larger calves in the mob, so don’t treat all calves as equals. For example, if you are buying in a batch of calves from the sale yards and you have no history of when they were weaned off meal or drenched, it is a good idea to weigh them individually on arrival. The low weight calves and or ones that don’t look that great could be fed some meal (with a coccidiostat in it) for a short period of time after they arrive to get them back on track and wean them onto an all grass diet. Also start them on grass away from the bigger mob until they are able to compete.

By weighing them, they can also receive an accurate dose of quarantine drench (if old enough). If the farm has the potential of having a high level of worm challenge because the only cattle on the farm are young stock, a quarantine drench on arrival is a good idea. Using a combination drench is vital at this stage, and as most calves arrive too light for safe dosing with Abamectin, Arrest C and Dectomax is a good combination.
Young stock need constant surveillance. If a scour problem is picked up early before much damage is done, then treatment response can be rapid. If, however, an extended period of time elapses before treatment, deaths may occur or, the animal may remain affected for life even after treatment.

Faecal testing

Identification of what is causing the scouring is really important and it is also cost effective. It is not uncommon for a Vet to find a mob of calves that have been scouring and the farmer has treated them all, spending lots of money in the process, for something he had in his calves a few years ago but they are still scouring. He has either drenched them again, treated them with Bivatop ($15 per 180kg calf) or Baycox C ($13 per 180 kg calf). Faecal tests have then revealed the cause of the scouring is something totally different than the condition they have been treated for.
Also, I have had it where the famer has just drenched them recently and thought it couldn’t be worms causing the problem. Faecal egg testing has showed that there was a worm problem and with investigation, a resistance problem emerges or the period between drenches has been too long for that farm. The Anexa laboratory turnaround for results is very good, and we can do some testing in clinic meaning we can advise you of the correct treatment for the problem within a short period of time.

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