How can I keep scour at bay this spring?

In the summer of 2017, Colin and Pauline Dyer – together with their son Mike – of Trekillick Farms in Bodmin, Cornwall, decided to review their dairy calf rearing system.

With 300 pedigree jerseys calving all year round, crytosporidium was a constant threat.

Stuart Fry suggested using Bonanza calf’s new Transformula powder and offered to weigh calves weekly to get a true picture of results. Transformula has been designed to replace transition milk – the milk cows produce after colostrum.

At the time all calves received 4L of refractometer tested (above 25) colostrum within six hours of birth, followed by 2L twice daily of colostrum / transition milk until day five.

Calves then moved to 400g twice daily of a high-protein whey / veg-based powder until day 56 when they were gradually weaned over the next two weeks.

The first five calves born in August 2017 were treated with their normal anti-scour agents for seven days and transition milk for the first four days before moving to high-protein powder from day five.

The second five calves born in August received 600g/day of Transformula from day five to day 12.

The third five calves born in August received 600g/day of Transformula from day five to day 19.

Calves were weighed weekly and health status recorded. The average birth weight of all calves was 23.5kg, although one of 17kg (group 2) and one of 31kg (group 3) showed the range possible.

No calves were lost, but most showed some signs of crytosporidium. All calves with scour either stopped growing or actually lost weight in the following week, explaining the relatively low growth rates in the first month.

Pauline Dyer, who does most of the calf feeding, said: “I could see little difference in the calves but feeding Transformula is much easier than treating each calf.”

Stuart Fry (Bonanza calf) said: “This was not meant to be a scientific trial but a way to give Pauline and Mike confidence in the product, cost wise.

Transformula for seven days is a net cost of €3.50/calf for seven days treatment or €7 for 14 days treatment. Alternative treatments for the prevention of crytosporidium can cost €10.00+ per calf.

“The nutrition in Transformula also helps to keep calves healthy in other situations as well and this, combined with the Dyer’s excellent colostrum management, gets the calves off to a good start.”

Pauline said: “I feel Transformula is a more natural alternative; it’s just a feed which the calves like which makes it much easier.”

The updated feeding programme

Trekillick farms is pleased to be able to stop using any other treatments as a routine in the calf rearing and, although at present, crytosporidium appears not to be a problem, it will continue to use Transformula as crytosporidium is a horrific issue to deal with when it gets established.

Following the trial, the overall feeding programme was looked at and now calves get:

  • Day 1: 4L Colostrum at birth followed by 2L within six hours;
  • Day 2-5: Two feeds with 2L of colostrum / transition milk;
  • Day 6-13: Two feeds with 300g of Transformula;
  • Day 13-56: Two feeds with 300g of a skim-based milk powder.

Although the Trekillick calves are now having less powder and less crude protein, coats and dung are better with no apparent effect on performance.

According to Dr. Christine Cummins of Bonanza, feeding high levels of crude protein can predispose calves to scour as much of the crude protein is not digested in the young calf.

This is why feeding skimmed milk powder is better, as providing the skimmed milk is low heat treated, the crude protein is actually true protein and easily digested by the calf, she added.

For more information, contact your local merchant or phone Bonanza Calf Nutrition on: 042-9336001.