Calf scour has serious on farm implications and is the greatest single cause of death in young calves. But now a new calf scour survey, commissioned by Virbac in partnership with Dairy Farmer magazine, has revealed the huge emotional and financial tolls experienced by dairy farmers and why vaccination can be key to managing this disease risk.
Involving 324 dairy farmers, the UK survey has provided an interesting insight to the impact of calf scour on farm, highlighting the pressure felt by dairy farmers when tackling this issue.
The survey found that:
- 61 percent admitted to feeling added anxiety from having calves sick with scour
- 77 percent found that added time pressures form nursing sick calves caused difficulties
- 56 percent expressed concerns over labour and treatment costs
- 57 percent discovered cryptosporidium on their farm
- 40 percent discovered rotavirus
- 59 percent of farmers resorted to the use of antibiotics to combat scour
The respondents to the csurvey, which ranged in herd size from fewer than 300 cows to larger herds up to 900 to 1,200 cows, showed that, in addition to the stress and pressures caused by calf scour and despite pressure from milk buyers and the government for a reduction on the use of antibiotics, more than half of the farmers surveyed are resorting to treatment with antibiotics, while more than half admitted to not actively testing their herds.
“Not testing could be a real mistake, as understanding which pathogens are involved in a scour outbreak can help decide the best approach to treating sick calves, but also, importantly, helps to guide the approach to prevention of future outbreaks,” said Kate Ingram, ruminant technical vet adviser at Virbac.
“Vaccination can help to reduce outbreaks of scour and so eliminate the need to use antibiotics.
“By vaccinating dams during the last trimester of pregnancy, the antibodies in their colostrum against some of the infectious causes of scours will increase. Giving the newborn good quality colostrum from a vaccinated dam quickly enough after birth will help protect against some of the more common infectious causes of scour.”
Good stockmanship, biosecurity, ventilation and testing are, of course, all key to healthy calves, but vaccination is now playing an increasingly important role on dairy farms.
New guidance on vaccination to improve cattle health in the UK prioritises scours as a disease which livestock should be protected against by default.
Vaccinating pregnant cows and heifers annually to prevent scours in calves was included in the National Office for Animal Health’s new Livestock Vaccination Guideline, published in 2022.
Moreover, of the farmers involved in the calf scour survey, most said they would start vaccinating if it was on the advice of their vet or if there was evidence of a cost benefit.
Bovigen Scour is a single-shot broad spectrum vaccine which protects against three major causes of scour: rotavirus, coronavirus and Escherichia coli.
As a convenient one-shot vaccine in cows and heifers Bovigen Scour offers a wide and flexible vaccination window of 12 to 3 weeks pre-calving.
Ask your Virbac Territory Manager how Bovigen Scour can help protect the next generation of your clients’ herds.