Franklin Vets Blog

Unite against calf scours

May 19, 2020

We’ve nailed hygiene with Covid-19, now why can’t we do it with calf rearing?! Obviously a calf scour outbreak isn’t comparable to a global pandemic, but it is still a nightmare to deal with at an already busy time of year. Thankfully, it is entirely preventable.

We have had it drummed into us for the past couple of months, beating the bugs comes down to two key things:calves in paddock

  1. Maximising protection – Antibodies from vaccination, or in the case of calves through colostrum from their vaccinated mothers.
  2. Minimising exposure – Hygiene and isolation.

It’s handy to think of calf management like being in Alert level 3; community transmission might be happening, and new clusters may emerge but can be controlled through testing and contact tracing. This means calves should be kept within their bubble and any movement between (calves or people) needs to be considered a risk.


Alert level 3 – Restrict

Measures that should be applied:

  • Quarantine/Self-isolation
    • Any bought in calves for 7-10 days
    • Any calves displaying symptoms of illness
    • Isolation pen should have solid sides and ideally be in a different air space.
  • Bubbles
    • All in/all out – fill one pen at a time and don’t mix mobs after this.
  • Physical distancing
    • Solid sides between pens so no physical contact can occur.
  • Hygiene
    • Disinfect with Vetsan minimum once per week and every day with sick calves.
      • Vetsan will kill crypto where other disinfectants won’t and can be misted over the calves themselves.
    • Between groups clean out bedding and thoroughly disinfect with VetSan and Stalosan F
      • Stalosan F helps keep the bedding dry, controls a range of pathogens and binds harmful ammonia. It lasts several days so is effective reapplied weekly.
    • Scrub all equipment, use boot brushes and disinfectant spray bottles
    • Hygienic storage of colostrum
  • PPE
    • Separate clothing/boots/gloves for the isolation pen.

Just like Covid-19 many of the pathogens which are responsible for neonatal scours are viruses. This means antibiotics aren’t effective. In fact, for most there is no specific treatment, just supportive care.

This makes prevention critical.

And if an incursion does occur it’s important to be prepared to flatten the curve. Luckily, we already have a vaccination for three of the major calf scour culprits. Rotavec Corona is given to the cows 3 weeks prior to calving and the antibodies reach the calves through colostrum. Giving good quality first milking colostrum in the first 12 hours of life is therefore crucial.Rotavec Corona Vaccination

Visually it’s impossible to tell what is ‘good’ colostrum. Good means it has a high antibody and low bacterial concentration, which unfortunately isn’t related to colour or volume. Colostrum can be tested for quality via a drop of milk onto a refractometer. This is relatively simple and quick and means that your best colostrum can be prioritized for first feeds of your keeper calves.

So are you prepared? Now is the ideal time to make plans and book a calf rearing WOF with your local vet. Save lives, don’t wait until it’s too late.

Dr Danielle Thomson BVSc (Dist.) Branch Manager at Paeroa Vets