25 February 2000

TLC is best way to beat scour in young calves

By James Garner

TENDER loving care and good husbandry are the best means to beating scour in young calves.

Results from a Milk Development Council (MDC) funded study into calf enteritis by the National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS) shows that simple, common sense measures remain the best way of treating calf scours.

Despite being the biggest ever enteritis survey, involving 256 scour outbreaks in the UK from February 1997 to May 1998, the reports conclusions imply that uncomplicated and common sense husbandry methods go a long way to countering the effects of enteritis.

Author of the report vet, consultant Tony Andrews, says influential environmental factors are damp bedding, over-crowding, and irregular use of disinfectant in pens. The effects stemming from how calves are fed milk is a more surprising finding, he adds.

Results show holdings feeding calves on milk substitute have fewer problems with scours than those feeding whole milk. This could be because they feed a more consistent and regular product, less likely to cause stomach upsets, says Dr Andrews.

"Calves are like babies and need routine. I suspect milk, as opposed to milk substitute, is fed at various temperatures and differing amounts depending on how much is available."

Milk temperature varies because warm milk is fed in the morning after milking. But being left out all day, it is cold in the evening, suggests Dr Andrews. Factors affecting milk conformity include feeding dump milk – milk from cows being treated with antibiotics – and feeding surplus milk.

Calf nutrition also affects the likelihood of calves contracting enteritis. Research shows a large number of under-fed calves are more susceptible to the bug, he says. "Units that feed more and use creep feed seem to suffer fewer scour outbreaks."

There seems to be a link with feeding hay and cutting scours. If the only roughage available is bedding then calves are more likely to pick-up straw, which has been contaminated with faeces, he says. This increases the chance of digesting bugs that will cause scours.

Of the causes of scour, rotavirus and cryptosporidia – as expected – are the main offenders, but coccidiosis is becoming more significant. This reflects vet reports coming into NADIS, says Dr Andrews.

One factor potentially causing an increase in coccidiosis is that more virulent strains are becoming widespread. Other factors, such as global warming means damp, warm weather is killing fewer bugs, says Dr Andrews.

Out of the 256 outbreaks investigated 29% were caused by rotavirus; 20% cyptosporidia; 11% coccidia; 6% coronvirus; 4% E coli K99; and 3% salmonella. In the remaining 26-27% of cases, no pathogens were found. &#42

CALFENTERITIS

&#8226 Good husbandry.

&#8226 Consistent milk.

&#8226 Feed clean roughage.