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February 2015

Calf Scours - A Vets View

By Wynnstay Dairy News 5 years ago

Calf scour is one of the biggest health issues in youngstock and there is a seasonal peak in winter. There are several different infectious causes, but often once calves are run down, they suffer mixed infections.

Which type of scour do my calves have?

Scour can also be nutritional - for example from feeding badly mixed or poor quality milk replacer - but usually even nutritional scour has an infectious component, because once the gut is damaged, it is all too easy for the pathogens to take hold. The most common bugs on UK farms are Rotavirus, Coronavirus, Cryptosporidium and Coccidiosis, which are probably present on all cattle farms to some degree. Other pathogens include Salmonella and Enterotoxic E coli (a particular strain which causes gut damage) - but these bacteria are limited to certain farms.

So, every farm has bugs, whether the calves get disease or not depends on hygiene, management and immunity. It is not possible to tell which pathogen is the cause of the scour just by just looking at the diarrhoea, which can be very variable, from profuse watery to sticky yellow, to green and mucous. The one exception perhaps, is coccidiosis which tends to be in older calves and can have fresh blood in it due to straining. Salmonella will also commonly cause a bloody scour (and a particularly sick calf). Your vet will be able to help you make a diagnosis based on sampling affected calves.

How should I treat my scouring calves?

Most calf scour in the UK is caused by either Rotavirus or Cryptosporidia, or a mixture of both. Neither are bacteria, so antibiotics have no effect. There may be some indication for antibiotics to protect against secondary bacteraemia (bacteria in the blood) and secondary E coli proliferation in the gut, but it is best to seek advice from your vet on this. Many vets are now specifically advising NOT to routinely use antibiotics, as they can interfere with healthy gut bacteria, and there is good evidence that calves can recover better without. However, the diagnosis is important: salmonellosis, for example, does warrant antibiotics.

If cryptosporidia has been diagnosed, treatment options are limited but halofuginone is a licensed anti-protozoal which can be used on veterinary advice. It works better as a preventive though.

The mainstay of treatment should be replacement of lost fluids. This is normally done with oral electrolytes, which are formulated to aid water absorption via the intestine. Scouring calves also become acidotic and whilst all electrolytes help them counter this, modern electrolytes usually contain alkalising agents too. There is a large range of products available and some are more sophisticated than others.

Traditionally, milk feeds were stopped for a few feeds while the calf was fed electrolyte fluids. However, this advice is now largely outdated as calves loose weight very rapidly when not fed milk
the energy in electrolytes is for water absorption, not nutrition for the calf, and is far less than is contained in milk or milk replacer. The concern is that by continuing to feed milk, there is more secondary fermentation in the gut and the calf continues to scour. To some extent this is true, but more attention should be paid to the demeanour of the calf rather than what is coming out of the back end. The research evidence is that calves which continue to receive milk in addition to electrolytes (to replace lost fluids) recover faster and lose less weight. Some modern electrolytes can be fed mixed in with milk, although the older types are best fed as additional separate feeds.

As scour is due to an inflamed gut, anti-inflammatories are also useful in the treatment of scour. They make the calf feel better too, and so she is more likely to continue to drink. Severely dehydrated or collapsed calves will benefit from intravenous fluids (a “drip”) as they lose the ability to absorb fluids from the gut.

How can I prevent scour?

Prevention is the key! Once a calf has scour, the damage is already done. It is useful to think where the infection initially comes from. Most scour outbreaks begin with the calves being infected from their mothers or other adult cows in the herd. Many adults are symptomless carriers of the common scour pathogens. The calving box/area is therefore one of the key routes of infection. Scour may be occurring at 7-10 days old, but the initial infection is often much earlier than this (7-10 days is the typical incubation period for Rotavirus, for example). Of course once a batch of calves has started scouring, infection circulates amongst them and can become a continuous cycle.

Some tips to reduce the cycle of infection are:

  1. If from a dairy cow, remove the calf as soon as possible after birth into an individual, clean pen.
  2. Rear young calves in individual pens, disinfected between calves.
  3. Wash and sterilise all milk feeding equipment well.
  4. Rotate calving boxes/ clean out well - ideally after every calf is born. If in a loose-housed calving area, clean out regularly and provide plenty of space.
  5. Use appropriate disinfectants: e.g. coccidiosis and cryptosporida are particularly resistant, so require particular disinfectants such as Kilcox.
  6. When scour is a problem in suckler herds, a change of environment is recommended. Can the next cows to calve be housed elsewhere, or calve outside?
One reason why scour is most common towards the end of winter may be because the pathogens have built up in the pens and calving areas such that they overcome the calf’s defences. As well as reducing infection levels (basically, hygiene), the other part of the equation is maximising the calf’s defences, or immunity. For most of the scour pathogens, protection from colostrum is vital. Feeding enough colostrum of good enough quality, and soon enough after birth is well known, but UK research shows that around half of all calves have inadequate antibody levels. Your vet can do a simple blood test on 4-10 day old calves to check antibody levels: if they are low, a review of colostrum management is a good idea. There are some great solutions available now for freezing, storing, thawing and feeding colostrum, such as the ColoQuick or Perfect Udder systems, which revolutionise the ability to smoothly and hygienically implement best practice without having to fumble around trying to thaw colostrum stored in old ice-cream containers, for example.
Vaccination of cows before calving can boost specific colostrum antibody levels for some of the pathogens: for example Rotavec-Corona boosts antibodies against Rotavirus, Coronavirus and K99 (E. coli). Not only will this raise blood antibodies in the calf against these diseases, but colostrum fed longer will line the gut with protective surface antibodies. In the case of suckler calves, they will continue to receive some protection as theysuckle the dam, but in dairy calves the additional benefit is seen if colostrum is fed at least partially for the first 5-6 days or so. The risk of Johnes disease precludes most farms from pooling colostrum, but spare colostrum from an individual’s mother can be stored with a longer “shelf life” using a buffered acid such as MilkMate®. Cryptosporidiosis can be a particular problem as colostral immunity seems to play a much smaller role. In this case, ensure there is no mixed infection or other factor which is decreasing the calf’s ability to fight off the disease, and redouble efforts on hygiene to break the cycle of infection.
Some tips to maximise immunity:
  1. Keep calves warm: calf coats are an obvious solution; deep straw bedding allows nesting.
  2. Keep calves dry: wet calves are cold calves, and bugs also like the damp.
  3. Good nutrition: feed a quality milk replacer, and in good quantities. Top performers are feeding much more than litres twice daily nowadays. Thin calves are more susceptible to disease. Calves need more feed when it is cold.
  4. Ensure a good first feed of colostrum: e.g. 4 litres within first 6 hours of birth. Test colostrum quality, and don’t rely on chance.
  5. Top up colostrum antibody levels using vaccination of the dam (for rotavirus, coronavirus, K99 E coli, or salmonellosis).
  6. Don’t stress the calves: feed consistently and with care.
  7. Continue to feed colostrum for as long as possible: antibodies can no longer be absorbed after 24 hours, but will line the gut.

Can the scour bugs affect us?

Finally, be aware that Salmonella and Cryptosporidiosis are zoonotic diseases, and can affect humans. The very young and very old are particularly vulnerable to more severe disease.
Written by Owen Atkinson MRCV'S - Dairy Veterinary Consultancy Ltd
For more information email dairy@wynnstay.co.uk

Maximise growth with the Heatwave Milk Warmer

By Wynnstay Dairy News 5 years ago

There is now plenty of evidence that feeding large quantities of milk solids to calves in the first 60 days of life not only promotes a high daily liveweight gain but also switches on genes in the calf which enhance its metabolism for the rest of its life.

At a recent Nutreco conference in Eindhoven many papers were presented, which can be viewed at

Martin Kaaske presented work by Maccari et al which showed calves fed ad lib milk would go on to become greedy calves, eating more cake than those following a restricted regime, and this implies a better appetite in later life.

Lifelong performance is improved when adequate colostrum feeding is followed by an accelerated feeding program. The choice of feeding system depends on housing, staffing and the type of calf being produced, but all the evidence tells us that for the last 30 years, the practice of feeding 400g-500g of milk powder a day is underfeeding the newborn calf, leading to failure to thrive, disease and even death.

There are various ways of putting more milk into the baby calf, but rearers are cautious because very large meals can trigger off scouring. On the continent, it is not uncommon to find 3 x/day feeding. This allows quantities up to 12 litres/day to be fed. The amount is then stepped down to twice/day towards weaning at 8 weeks. Conversely, in the UK there has been a trend towards the New Zealand, once a day feeding system, which gives a moderate daily gain, but on 500-600g/day does not necessarily allow the heifer to reach her optimum genetic potential.

The H&L Urban and Forster technik computerised systems with transponder collars offer a ‘Rolls Royce’ system which is close to nature, with several meals offered daily and individual diet plans generally offering Holstein heifers 900g-1200g of powder per day. This system gradually weans the calf, giving a slow transfer to dry feed and maximising rumen development.

The Heatwave system simply converts ad lib cold milk into a continuous supply of warm milk at the teat. Calves feed whenever they are hungry and can gain at over a kg/day. Weaning procedure is similar to the Volac autofeeder where calves are progressively offered more water, less milk and take
to dry feed steadily.

Dave Merrett from Oldbury Farm Arlingham sells his bull calves to Meadow Quality calves and has been feeding ad lib Wynngold Stellar through the system. He reports his calves are getting better grades since he moved from restricted feeding to the Heatwave system. It also has the flexibility of feeding waste whole milk to bull calves. Milk Mate preservative must be added to the whole milk to stop spoilage when milk stands for 24hrs.

The Heatwave can handle up to 30 calves. Ben Andrews from Broadward Hall Leominster rears cross bred calves in groups of 10. He mixes Wynngold Thrive powder in a Wydale mobile milk mixer then uses a special adaptor on the outlet which feeds directly into the Heatwave. He reports no scouring as the calves feed ‘little and often’, they seem very content and a lot healthier. On the previous restricted system there was always a feeding frenzy, but with the adlib system there is no competition at the teat and no fighting for food. The daily routine now means checking bellies are full, washing out drums and lines daily, never mixing old milk with new. On any ad lib system its important to choose a shed with good drainage and ventilation, and always use plenty of straw.

Sheep farmers and goat herds are now seeing the advantages of the system which can be converted using smaller teats. It offers high growth, healthier youngstock and flexibility of labour during lambing/kidding time.

However, for those who are on an economy drive, there is a new affordable system which also offers several small meals and will maximise growth rates. Recently launched by Wynnstay, those who have adopted the system report improved growth, improved health and more contented calves.

Written by Gill Dickson - National Calf Specialist

From more information email dairy@wynnstay.co.uk

Click here to view Wynnstay's Calf Feeding Equipment Range

Low Stress System Breeds Success

By Wynnstay Dairy News 5 years ago

Adopting a stress free rearing system coupled with good nutrition and calf protocols has paid dividends for the Jones brothers who have developed a successful calf rearing enterprise building up from 200 to 1400 reared calves over a period of 3 years.

1000ft above sea level in Colwyn Bay is a good healthy place for a calf rearing enterprise. However, as with all ‘bought in‘ calves there are inherent disease risks and brothers Arfon and Gerallt Jones at Llindir Farm have had to develop strategies to get their calves off to a good start.

The two brothers started the calf enterprise rearing 200 calves in existing buildings in 2012. The gritting business and sheep also demand time so they invested in a Holm & Laue 100 computerised calf feeder as a way of making sure the calves were fed on time, even when they were away on another job. Each calf wears a transponder collar which allows the calf to have 750g of milk powder per day. They are allowed 5.2 litres/day, split into 4 or more feeds throughout the day. The milk is restricted but available in small meals, this simulates natural behaviour, promoting better digestion and less stress. The machine records information and generates an alarm list and a ‘credit’ list which acts as an early warning system, when a calf starts to drink slowly, or doesn't arrive for a meal, the calf number is flagged up.

The calves are around 14-21 days old on arrival so the machine is set to start weaning the calves at 18 days and reduces the amount fed by 0.2 litres/day until 39 days. This slow, gradual weaning onto 18% weaner nuts allows gradual rumen development and a stress free weaning period. The calves are kept in groups of 25 on the machine and split into groups of 12 or 13 after weaning. They stay with the same cohort all the way through to minimise stress caused by mixing groups. The nuts are fed in an auger bucket to speed up feeding time, allowing more time for calf care.

The automated system has been so successful they now have 4 Holm & Laue 100 machines both new and secondhand, each one running 2 feed stalls for 50 calves. Two new sheds have been built in the last 3 years to provide extra accommodation. The calves are two thirds continental cross and one third Holstein bulls. Since the price of skimmed milk dropped they feed a 22% protein, 18% fat skimmed milk powder and 18% weaner nuts with ad lib straw. The skim milk base gives a bloom to their coats and growth rates average at around 0.9 - 1kg/day.

Calves are around 3 weeks on entry and reach 140-150kg after 12 weeks. Currently there are 200 calves on the milk machines and 230 weaned calves at any one time, with new batches arriving every week.

The calves have their backs shaved and are given a H&L transponder collar/number on arrival. They receive Bovipast vaccine on arrival and a booster at 4 weeks. Covexin is used at the same time as dehorning to prevent Blackleg. The baby calf pens are mucked out every 2 weeks to reduce humidity and at least 2kg of straw per calf per day is used. ‘Plenty of milk and plenty of straw is cheaper than medicines’ says Arfon. An ‘all in, all out’ policy is essential to prevent disease carry over from one batch to another, and it allows the shed to be cleaned down, disinfected and dried before the next batch arrives. A fan system is sometimes used to circulate fresh air if the sheds become muggy.

Trutest scales and electronic tags are used to track the progress of calves through the unit with calves being weighed at 4 weeks old and subsequently at 3 week intervals. Each batch takes 90 days to finish and following a TB test they can then move on to a beef fattening unit. Working with a calf group like Meadow Quality gives the brothers confidence in their future. The calves are already sold before entering the unit, so they are never left with unsold calves.

Written by Gill Dickson - National Calf Specialist

For more information email dairy@wynnstay.co.uk

Click here to view Wynnstay's Calf Feeding Range

Colostrum Management

By Wynnstay Dairy News 5 years ago

Colostrum is the foundation of a healthy calf and many people have fine-tuned the art of providing the calf with 10% of birth weight within the first 6 hours of life. Why then do we still tend to find problems with calves scouring and generally not doing so well?

Sam Leadley, Attica Vets US suggests that good colostrum management starts by harvesting ‘clean colostrum’. In this article he advises some simple protocols that can be implemented on any farm.

Feeding Clean Wholesome Colostrum

We all want to raise healthy calves. Getting calves off to a good start by feeding colostrum is the foundation on which we can build an excellent calf rearing program.

  • QUICKLY Feed colostrum as soon after birth as practical – 4 out of 5 calves within 4 hours is a good goal.
  • QUANTITY Feed enough colostrum – best management suggests 200g of antibodies in the first feeding.
  • QUALITY Feed high quality colostrum – a minimum of 50g/l is a practical minimum threshold.

WAIT! What happened to clean and wholesome? Yes, you can follow all three of the best colostrum management practices above (Quickly, Quantity, Quality) and still not have healthy calves? Why? Because the calf’s first meal, colostrum, could be contaminated with bacteria.

What are practical ways to reduce bacterial contamination of colostrum?

First, minimise inoculation.
Clean teats at first milking. The recommended protocol for getting clean teats at first milking after calving is: (fore-stripping may be added as desired)

  1. Brush contaminants from teats (for example, straw and sawdust)
  2. Dip all teat surfaces with an effective pre-dip
  3. Wait – give the dip an opportunity to destroy bacteria – 30 seconds.
  4. Wipe.
  5. Dip a second time and wait 30 seconds.
  6. Wipe giving special attention to the teat ends.

Clean collection pail or bucket. Regular scrubbing of these buckets (usually stainless steel) will include these steps:

  1. Rinse with lukewarm water to remove milk residue
  2. Wash with hot water (always above 50°C) using a chlorinated detergent and brushing thoroughly3. Rinse with an acid solution if next use is likely to be more than 12 hours.
  3. Turn upside down to dry.

Second, minimize growth of the few bacteria that do get into the colostrum.
If we are realistic most of us have to admit that collecting sterile colostrum is not too practical on a dairy farm. So our next question is how to minimize the growth of these intruders?

The most simple and practical way to prevent bacterial growth is to feed the colostrum to a calf. The conditions in her digestive tract (low pH, digestive juices) are not usually favourable for bacterial growth. A good rule of thumb is to feed fresh colostrum within 30 minutes after it is collected for most favourable bacteria control.

However, if we are going to delay feeding longer than 30 minutes we need to think about some way to slow down the growth process – a simple, inexpensive method would be good. The growth rate of bacteria in colostrum is determined by the availability of nutrients (high), pH (not easy to change), and the temperature (can be changed).

Thus, our least expensive and practical way to slow down the growth process is to chill colostrum. Coliform bacteria will double every 20 minutes at cow body temperature (38.5°C) but this doubling takes 200 minutes at 16°C.

Methods to chill warm colostrum to 16° within 30 minutes:

Ice-bath method
Pour colostrum into containers. Containers holding about 2 litres work well for this purpose. Place them into any kind of tub or bucket with enough water to ¾ cover the containers – avoid water levels that are too high because containers will often tip over and leak colostrum into the water. Maintain enough ice in the water so that it is visible at all times – about 30 minutes should take the
colostrum down to 16°C.

Ice immersion method
Prepare bottles of ice before the need to chill colostrum. Frequently 1L, 2L or 4L containers are convenient sizes – fill only ¾ full of water and freeze. Always be sure to have the outside surfaces clean. Place the ice containers into the warm colostrum. Add ice at the rate of 1 part ice to 4 parts of colostrum to chill to 16°C within 30 minutes.

Written by Rebecca Richards - Calf Specialist

For more information email dairy@wynnstay.co.uk

Team Update!

By Wynnstay Dairy News 5 years ago

We are pleased to be continuing with the investment in our Dairy Technical Team with the appointment of four new Dairy Specialists who will cover the following regions;

William Astley - Mid Wales
Thomas Stephenson - Lancashire
Stuart Miles - South Wales
Mark Price - Shropshire

Our new Dairy Specialists will be enrolled on an intensive training programme which will further enhance their knowledge of the dairy industry and equip them with the knowledge of the products and services Wynnstay can offer dairy farmers. The investment we have made to further enhance our technical team demonstrates our commitment to providing support for dairy farmers to grow and develop their enterprises.