Vet’s Voice by Dave Barz: Be clean and cautious
May 20, 2013
The few warm days have really been great. The moisture we had over the winter was helpful, but the pasture is a long way from rehydrated. The creeks have a little water, but the low water levels in the dugouts aren't increasing. In our area most clients are excited to get into fields to plant some row crops, but we need a rain for the pastures.
We are still seeing high numbers of calves in our 'intensive care' calf barn. We treated 350 calves in March and April, both record months. We continue to treat more navel infections. Some of these become systemic and result in the calf needing intravenous fluids. We have surgically repaired 50-plus navels. Most of these require removing an intra abdominal stump which were cultured and most commonly revealed E.coli as the cause. Many of these bugs are very resistant to antibiotics and don't respond well to treatment.
Prevention is the best treatment for navel ill. Allow the calves to be born in a clean dry area. Pasture grass is usually best. If you are having problems in a barn or calving pen, try to eliminate the area from your calving strategy. Sometimes suitable antibiotics can be administered to combat infection. Consult with your veterinarian for appropriate antibiotics for your herd, and don't forget to keep spraying those navels with strong Iodine (7 percent).
The muddy conditions have increased the number of calves we are seeing infected with Cryptosporidium. About 20 years ago we started to see herds infected with Crypto. This tiny protozoan infects the calf early in life and usually causes a bloody scour in about 5-7 days. Treatment has been problematic and frustrating at best. We have tried disinfectants, antibiotics and holistic products. Our treatment requires oral electrolytes, Kaopectate and several other mystery ingredients. In some severe cases these calves are brought to the ICU for intravenous care. The scour usually responds, but it is common for it to relapse if the calf is stressed over the next few days.
I believe Crypto is much more common than producers realize. I checked the SDSU Diagnostic Lab records and found they reported 78 cases in 2012 – realizing they can only utilize samples sent to them for diagnosis. We stain fecal swabs in our office lab and we have seen it in more than 200 cases.
One thing you must remember is that Crypto is a zooenotic disease. That means it is easily transmitted from calf to humans. Several of us work with the calves everyday and never confront the symptoms of infection with the organism. We must be immune as a result of prior exposure. Every year we have clients and their families which contract the disease. Last year one of my grandsons was visiting for Easter and went to see the calves. We were careful, but he still was diagnosed with Crypto. Our office help who wash equipment from the ICU will often develop Crypto their first spring at the clinic.
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We all want to give our calves the best care possible, but we must be aware of human infection by some organisms. Wear latex gloves whenever possible and wash thoroughly after treatments. You may have some immunity to the organisms but try to protect your family and friends. Consult with your veterinarian to try to minimize problems with your herd. Careful disinfection and a clean dry calving area will help minimize your problems.