Farmers have been advised to go back to basics, to safeguard the health of their calves at rearing, before making decisions on upgrading the calf housing on their farms.

Bonanza Calf Nutrition – the producers of the renowned range of Shine milk replacers – say there are many factors to consider before changing housing or perhaps installing a computer feeding system.

And many centre on the root cause of viruses and bacteria.

Causes of scour and pneumonia

Bonanza Calf Nutrition’s Dr Christine Cummins advised farmers to take a step back when it comes to managing calf health.

“You might say viruses and bacteria, but by taking another step back we need to think what causes them to be abundant enough to result in calf illness,” she said.

As a first step, she recommends scrutinising the existing system, with hygiene being of the utmost importance.

“Despite the best of intentions we might have at the beginning of the calving season, if we are honest with ourselves we have to admit we are far less likely to clean out calf pens by hand compared to using a machine.’’

Christine Cummins of Bonanza Calf Nutrition pictured with the Moore family

Christine Cummins of Bonanza Calf Nutrition pictured with the Moore family

The feeding system can also significantly affect the pathogen load of the feeding equipment, particularly around the teat.

This is moist and contaminated by calf saliva, presenting the perfect environment for pathogens such as cryptosporidia to thrive, especially if it is not cleaned regularly.

The more calves that share one teat, the greater the pathogen load and the greater the risk of disease.

The number of calves sharing a pen and their ages are also a major contributor to possible disease outbreaks.

Problems with housing

Christine, who researched calf rearing as part of her PhD at Teagasc Moorepark, found that calves housed in a range of old buildings were more likely to have decreased mortality than those with all new housing.

Large groups of calves are less than ideal as mixing calves of different ages results in increased exposure of young calves to pathogens they are not immune to, increasing the risk of disease.

two calves in shed

Calf information evenings

To answer some of the questions that farmers may have ahead of next year’s calving season, Bonanza Calf Nutrition is hosting a series of calf rearing information evenings.

These evenings will take place from December 12-14 and there will be a discussion on how to minimise and combat disease.

The evenings will also allow farmers to fully understand the ins and outs of housing for all feeding systems, as well as advice on colostrum management and nutrition.

When and where:

  • The Clonakilty Hotel, Co. Cork, December 12 at 7pm
  • Rochestown Park Hotel, Co. Cork, December 13 at 7pm
  • The Killeshin Hotel, Portlaoise, December 14 at 7pm
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