E coli scour in calves is fast becoming a major problem on Irish suckler farms, according to Renmore-based veterinarian Philip McManus.

The vet from Glenina Veterinary Clinic said they are are seeing the worst outbreaks occurring on farms where E coli has not been a problem up to this point.

“And in many instances, the scour problem is preceded by pneumonia or some other respiratory-related problem.

“We believe that an interaction between rotavirus organisms and E coli bacteria is at the heart of this problem. These organisms will build up in sheds over the winter months. The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that suckler farmers are now calving cows that bit earlier so as to ensure that they have the best possible weanlings to sell at the back end.

“There is no real grass available for stock at this time of the year, which means that cows and calves are still indoors.”

McManus pointed out that the best way to prevent the problem from arising in the first place is to vaccinate cows.

“A single shot, protecting against both rotavirus and E coli, is all that’s required two months before calving,” he said.

“It’s important for herdowners to maintain the highest possible levels of hygiene throughout the calving season and while young calves are with their mothers in sheds.”

Philip’s colleague Colm McGovern confirmed that scour problems caused by Cryptosporidium protozoa have become a growing challenge on suckler farms.

“And it’s a problem that is extremely hard to get rid of,” he said.

“Once a single calf shows symptoms, these will invariably spread amongst its herdmates. Adding to the headache for farmers is the fact that crypto stays around on farms for years.

“Prevention is best achieved by maintaining the highest possible level of hygiene on farm. The only treatment available is drenching with Halocur.”