Vet’s Voice: Keep scours at minimum this calving season
Winter has finally arrived on the Plains, as is typical when clients begin to lamb and calve. Hopefully most producers plan to calve when the weather warms. Regardless, now is the time to gather supplies and prepare paddocks, pens and barns for calving.
There are two flow patterns used to help minimize scour and pneumonia problems. Both patterns use methods for segregation of cow-calf pairs into pens of similar age.
The first flow pattern is the “Sandhills System” which separates pregnant cows from cows that have already calved. Pregnant cows are allowed to calve in a pen or paddock for 10-14 days. Then the pairs are left in the contaminated pastures and the pregnant cows are moved to a clean pasture to calve. The cycle is repeated until the herd has finished calving. This system minimizes the buildup of scour organisms by eliminating contact between young calves and older calves.
The second flow pattern involves movement of cow-calf pairs to a clean pasture as soon as the calf is dry and bonded with its mother. In our experience, this pattern allows cows to calve in a common lot that is close to facilities and shelter. Calves are then trailered to other locations or farms separate from the calving herd. The calves are grouped by age on the other sites and may be separated by miles. This system works well until later in the calving season when producers get busy with field work. When calves don’t get moved, scour organisms build up and can move through the herd.
If calves aren’t moved, calf health usually goes well for two to three weeks. Then scours erupts and moves through both the older and younger calves. The younger the calf is when it scours, the more severe the outcome of the situation.
The key to all systems is keeping older calves separate from newborns. Design a system which fits your needs and utilizes the facilities you have.
Keep in mind, early colostrum uptake is the most important act in a newborn’s life. We hope that every calf consumes colostrum within the first two hours after birth because:
• The calf’s intestinal lining begins to close within 60 minutes after birth.
• Nine hours after birth, 50 percent of the gut’s ability to absorb colostrum is lost.
• Colostrum quality diminishes rapidly after cows give birth.
Colostrum from your herd provides the best source of immunoglobulin needed for immunity to diseases prevalent in the herd. Some producers purchase colostrum from other herds or dairy farms, but this provides a possible vector for diseases to enter the herd.
For years, there have been products known as colostrum “supplements.” These products are designated as containing less than 100 grams of globulin protein per dose. Recently colostrum “replacements” have been developed and contain at least 100 grams of globulin protein.
Many of these products also contain energy, protein, vitamins and minerals similar to maternal colostrum. These products are more expensive than the “supplement” products, but this is definitely a case of “You get what you pay for.”
Most calf losses occur in the first month of life. Visit with your veterinarian to devise programs specific for your herd and facilities. Extra time and effort spent this spring will bring back more calves at weaning, improving the returns on your cow-calf operation.
Dave Barz is a veterinarian at Northwest Veterinary Supply in Parkston, SD.