With calving 2022 fast approaching, now is the time for farmers to start gearing up for the busy spring period. The newborn calf will face many infectious diseases in the early stages of life, with calf scour being one of the most common challenges. 

Creating a calf health plan now, will help reduce the risk of disease occurring in the first place.

For Cork dairy farmer, James Murphy, this means making sure colostrum is of the highest quality, in addition to ensuring good environmental hygiene and management on farm.

In the video below, James highlights the key steps he is taking in preparation for calving 2022 and why vaccination plays such an integral role in his calf health plan.   

Calf scour

Calves are most at risk of scour during the first four weeks of life; therefore, rely entirely on good high-quality colostrum for protection.

Paul Ryan, vet practitioner with Waterside Vets, Co. Limerick, said that “good-quality colostrum production starts well before birth and relies on the cow’s body condition being optimal as well as vaccination prior to calving”.     

“To achieve adequate protection from calf scour, we recommend vaccinating the cow or heifer with the Bovilis Scour Vaccine 12-3 weeks prior to calving as this will allow her to increase the concentration of antibodies produced in colostrum against the main scour-causing pathogens,” said Paul.

The antibodies produced by the cow or heifer will not pass to the calf before birth. Therefore, it is critical that the calf receives 3L of good-quality colostrum as soon as possible after birth. The calf should also be fed within the first two hours of birth, to obtain the necessary antibodies which will kick start the calf’s immune system and protect against disease. 

According to James, “vaccinating the cows prior to calving gives us an extra boost of confidence going into the calving period as we know the colostrum contains the critical antibodies to reduce the risk of scour”.

“We place a big emphasis on getting the colostrum right and into the calf as soon as possible after birth,” he said.

“We operate the 1,2,3 rule of colostrum, and use a Brix Refractometer to ensure calves receive high-quality colostrum with a reading greater than 22%.”  

Calf health programme 

The direct cost of treating scour can be easily determined from treatment costs and losses, but the overall indirect losses, such as reduced growth rates and labour requirements, are often underestimated.

“We vaccinate for two main reasons: Animal welfare and labour. We don’t want the animals getting sick, and from an animal performance point of view, it is important that they reach their target growth rates,” explained James.

“Sick calves also add to the workload at an already busy time of year.” 

He continued: “Since vaccinating with the Bovilis Scour Vaccine, we have had no sick calves and there is less pressure on the animals as well as the people working on the farm.”

It is important to remember that vaccination is not a substitute for good hygiene, housing, and environmental factors. Every attempt should be made to keep housing clean and dry, and reduce draughts, where possible.

All feeding equipment should be disinfected after every milk feeding and calf pens should be cleaned out, power washed and disinfected between batches of calves to reduce the build-up of bugs. 

Bovilis Scour Vaccine: How does it work?

  • Single shot primary course;
  • Low dose volume (2ml shot);
  • Intramuscular administration;
  • Broad window of vaccination (Vaccinate pregnant cows 12-3 weeks pre-calving).

Why choose the Bovilis Scour Vaccine

  • Reduces the severity of diarrhoea caused by E. coli (K99);
  • Reduces the incidence of scour caused by rotavirus;
  • Reduces the shedding of virus by calves infected with rotavirus and coronavirus;
  • Unique 28-day in-use shelf life;
  • Reduces the risk of breakage with new polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle;
  • Available in five, 20, and now 50 dose packs.

For more information, visit the MSD Animal Health scour page by clicking here.

Alternatively, talk to your vet about the Bovilis Scour Vaccine.