Getting Ahead of Calf Scours

FBN Network

Apr 01, 2024

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Calf scours is a top health issue for both beef and dairy calves. Dr. Steve Dudley, FBN® Head of Technical Services and a practicing veterinarian with Southwest Veterinary Services, provides tips on scours prevention to help maintain livestock health.

Dr. Dudley discusses:

  • Prevention strategies

  • Vaccine modes of action

  • Different vaccines available on the market

  • How to use vaccines

Watch the video below, or keep scrolling to read through the key takeaways of Dr. Dudley's presentation.

Watch Pre-Calving Scours Vaccine Webinar Now

3 Calf Diarrhea Prevention Strategies

There are a number of things to consider from a prevention strategy perspective.

1. Keep Facilities Clean

Manure management is crucial when thinking about preventing calf scours. Producers should proactively remove manure from calving areas on a regular basis and provide fresh bedding. 

2. Decrease Pathogen Load

It’s also important to think about different ways to dilute pathogen load. One of the ways to do this is by separating cows into different calving groups and pastures. Another way is to rotate the herd through pastures every two to three weeks to keep the calving area fresh.

This will decrease the amount of pathogens that older calves are passing to newborn calves. It’s common to see scours increase in severity toward the end of the calving period, so implementing management practices to keep pathogen loads low where new calves are being born is helpful.

3. Disinfect

Stalosan F is a broad spectrum dry disinfectant that can be used in calving facilities. It kills viruses and bacteria to protect animals from infection and disease.  

Vaccinate for Protection

Individual vaccines can be distributed to calves, but the most important consideration is good colostrum consumption. Using pre-calving vaccines helps build up the cow’s colostrum and improve the quality of the colostrum.

The term, failure of passive transfer, indicates a calf didn’t get antibody protection from the dam. This could be based on not getting enough quantity of colostrum. However, it can also happen when a calf doesn’t receive a high quality of colostrum. Calves get 100% of protection through colostrum consumption. 

What Makes Up a Vaccine?

Manufacturers all use a similar process to make vaccines. They first determine the antigens or “bugs” (viruses or bacteria) that will be within the vaccine. They then determine and add an adjuvant that presents the antigens to the animals in order to improve the response to the vaccine. Each manufacturer has their own proprietary antigens and adjuvants. 

Principles of Vaccination

Different herds require different vaccines and vaccination programs. There is not a one-size-fits-all perfect vaccine that works in every situation. The differences can be based on:

  • Herd size

  • Geographic area

  • Climate

  • Soil type — sandy vs. muddy

  • Calving operation type — dry lot calving vs. pasture calving

  • Management capabilities 

How a Mama Cow’s Protection Is Passed to Calves

A cow or heifer is vaccinated and builds up antibodies or protective units to the antigens (bacteria or virus) in the vaccine. Antibodies travel to the udder and become part of the colostrum which the calf then suckles. 

Colostrum has a rich antibody environment as well as energy, fat, and nutritional value for calves. It should be noted that 0% of antibodies are transferred to the calf in utero, which means the calf 100% relies on colostrum for protection against bacteria and viruses.

Learn more in FBN’s blog post: Why Is It Important for Calves to Receive Colostrum?

Colostrum Delivery to the Calf

In an ideal world, calves should receive colostrum within one to two hours of birth. The ability to absorb colostrum rapidly declines within six hours of a calf’s birth so it is vital that calves receive colostrum as soon as possible. In some cases, it’s important to feed this to the calf via bottle or an esophageal feeder within the first six hours of its life. 

Find colostrum replacement products on FBN, including:

Pre-Calving Scour Vaccines

Three of the most common choices for pre-calving scours vaccines are:

Differences Among Pre-Calving Scours Vaccines

The table below outlines the differences among the pre-calving scour vaccines. All of the vaccines protect against rotavirus and coronavirus. When a vaccine contains more than one virus strain, it is listed. For example, Scourguard contains two stains of rotavirus — G6 and G10. 

The last three columns of the table detail the bacterial pathogens, E. coli K99 and clostridium perfringens, the bacteria known as overeating diseases which cause toxins and sudden death in calves.

Proper Vaccination Is Key

Proper vaccination will help to maximize the quality of colostrum. It’s recommended that heifers get two doses. The first dose should be 10-12 weeks from calving. The second dose should be administered four to six weeks from calving. This will allow enough time to get into the colostrum. You do need to consider how long your calving interval is because it can potentially change when to vaccinate. 

Cows typically only receive one dose unless the animal is facing additional challenges. 

Always administer vaccines according to label directions. It’s important to use clean syringes and replace your needles every 10 cows. Always use a clean needle when entering the bottle. To clean your needles, use hot water and in some cases dish soap can be used. Just be sure to rinse soapy needles very well. Don’t inject wet animals. Moisture can lead to abscesses and more problems. 

Stock up and Save on Vaccines from FBN

For more information or to purchase vaccines directly from FBN, visit our Animal Health store to stock up and save.

Related Resources

Scour Bos is a registered trademark of Elanco US, Inc. Scourguard is a registered trademark of Zoetis Services LLC. Guardian is a registered trademark of Merck Animal Health.

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FBN Network

Apr 01, 2024

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