Biosecurity Series - Part 7

Dr Chris van Dijk

In part 1 we discussed the importance of calf growth rate, calf health management as well as some basic biosecurity principles and colostrum management. In this article we are going to have a look at some of the other factors contributing to success (if it is in place) of failure (if it is not in place).

Dry cow management and cow vaccinations

Antibody contact and colostrum quality can be greatly affected by management of the cow during the dry period. Colostrum quality is going to be directly proportional to the immune status of the cow. Anything that affects immunity of the cow will be reflected in the quality of the colostrum. If the cow is under stress, or if forage quality is low, then colostrum quality will suffer. However, vaccination of the cow three to four weeks before freshening will often result in increased antibodies in the colostrum and may be considered a way to vaccinate the calf (i.e. through the colostrum).

Vaccinating the dry cow for E.coli, Rotavirus, Coronavirus and Clostridium perfringens may help in the management of calf diarrhoea. Respiratory viral vaccines administered to the dam containing IBR, P13, BRSV and BVD can reduce the incidence and/or severity of these diseases in the young calf. Keep in mind that vaccination of the dam during the dry period does not guarantee calf health, but it will help to provide the calf with high antibody colostrums.

Calf nutrition

It goes without saying that the calf’s resistance and disease incidence levels will be greatly affected by nutritional management of the calf. Quality of milk replacer, introduction of calf starter rations, maintenance of high energy intake during cold weather and/or illness, and availability of fresh water are just some of the nutritional issues that need attention. Consider utilizing growth rates in addition to survivability as a measure of your calf raising success.Calf and young heifer growth rates ultimately relate to the first lactation milk production.

Reduce stress and improve calf comfort

Stress plays a large role in reducing resistance levels of individual animals and therefore makes them more susceptible to disease and even death. For example, calves that undergo a difficult birth requiring assistance (pulling) are 4.2 times more at risk of becoming ill and/or dying than a calf undergoing a normal unassisted birth. Every effort should be made to look for stressful situations, eliminate them and supply tender loving care.Common types of stress experienced by many calves include uncomfortable, cramped housing; poor ventilation; drafty environments; inconsistent feeding practices; and heat or cold.

2.Reduce exposure of the calves to on-site diseases an pathogens.

Calves are born with essentially no antibodies and an immature, non-fully functional immune system. Human babies born into this situation would undoubtedly be placed into a special sterile environment to reduce the chances for contracting disease. Calves however, are thrown into the sea of infectious agents found in and around the mud, urine, faeces, flies, and sick animals that reside in their surroundings.

The following list contains some common sense suggestions that, if followed, will greatly decrease the exposure of the calves to disease organisms and improve their health, survivability and growth rates.

  • Clean teats before the calf nurses or before milking out colostrum.
  • Filter colostrums to remove any faecal matter (pasteurisation of colostrum is often beneficial).
  • Utilize individual hutches and thoroughly disinfect between occupants.
  • Keep maternity pen clean with fresh bedding
  • Separate calves from dams as soon as possible, and move the calf to an individual hutch.
  • Keep calves away form other members in the herd, avoiding calf-to-calf contact.
  • Add more bedding or move hutches to decrease exposure to infectious agents.
  • Pay strict attention to sanitation measure.Thoroughly clean and disinfect all equipment that comes in contact with calves.When applicable, each calf should have her own dedicated feeding utensils.Feeding buckets should not have scratches (plastic) or other rough surfaces that allow bacteria to reside in them.
  • Isolate sick and diseased calves, feeding them last.
  • Keep water sources, feeds, etc. free from manure contamination

3.Control and monitor all cattle, livestock, equipment, and people entering the dairy.

Park of the strategy of a biosecurity program is to keep infectious agents from entering the dairy in the first place. As previously discussed most dairies fall short in this regard and leave themselves open to receiving someone else’s problems. While a truly closed dairy may seem undesirable or impractical, the health benefits are undeniable. Just attempt to walk onto most major swine rearing facilities. The swine industry has recognized the benefits of biosecurity measures and has aggressively implemented them.

Treatment vs. prevention

The whole purpose of a biosecurity program is to reduce the incidence of illness and disease, protect the resident herd, and increase profitability. The goals of such a program ultimately rely upon preventive measures rather than treatment to reduce the incidence of illness and the spread of disease.

In no other part of the dairy operation can the results of a biosecurity management program be more readily appreciated and the positive results more rapidly observed than with calves. Dramatic reductions in calf death and illness rates are available to producers who are willing to increase the level of attention that successful calf-raising requires. Producers who rely on treatment alone in their battle against calf disease are always going to be greatly disappointed.

An ounce of prevention, in this case, is truly worth a ton of cure.

Disclaimer: Zoetis takes no responsibility for any claims that may arise from information contained in this information sheet. Individual situations may vary from location to location and it is recommended that you consult your veterinarian before any management or treatment decisions are implemented.

Vrywaring: Zoetis neem geen verantwoordelikheid vir enige eise wat mag voortspruit uit inligting vervat in hierdie inligtingsdokument. Individuele situasies varieer van plek tot plek en dit word voorgestel dat u eers u veearts kontak alvorens enige bestuurs- of behandelingsbesluite geïmplementeer word.