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Diseases to look out for at calving season

Diseases to look out for at calving season

While it is stressful enough trying to get calves on the ground during calving season, that is not the end of the job for the cattleman.

Calves are born with an underdeveloped immune system which makes them prone to infections and diseases older animals wouldn’t be.

While the Moocall calving sensor is useful for stopping calf mortality during the calving event, it is also useful afterwards when immediate intervention is necessary to stop the calf contracting a deadly disease.

Here are just a few things you should be looking out for:

Johne’s Disease

Cause

A bacteria called Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis. It is passed on if a calf ingests infected colostrum or infected manure. It then damages the gut wall.

Symptom

Calves are occasionally infected at birth when the mother is in advanced stage of the disease. If a newborn becomes infected, signs of this aren’t likely to surface until two or more years later. Because of this, you'll want to be checking out the dam for symptoms instead.

The main symptoms are weight loss and scour.

Weight loss johne's disease

Image source

Prevention

  • Remove the calf from the calving pens soon as possible and introduce them to a clean dry and uncontaminated environment.
  • Collect the colostrum yourself and make sure your hands are clean
  • Only feed colostrum from test negative cows.

The Moocall calving sensor can be used to achieve all previous steps by the fact you’re on the scene much earlier.

Solution

There is no known cure for this disease and it affects 1 in 5 herds in Ireland.


Calf Pneumonia

Cause

Complex interaction between viral and bacterial pathogens, environmental stress factors and the animal’s own resilience to disease

Symptom

Temperature greater than 39.5C, Increased breathing rate and effort, coughing, nasal discharge

calf pneumonia vet farmer cattle

Image source

Prevention

  • Well ventilated facilities reduces the risk of calves developing respiratory infections or pneumonia. Badly ventilated sheds retain too much moisture in the air and let it gather into droplets, and then puddles. These are the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
  • Keep calves dry and well-bedded. Calves are not born with a winter hair coat so they need that extra layer to help keep them strong and healthy. Additionally they need to be in a clean place so refresh it regularly.
  • Feed enough milk to keep the calf warm, and healthy especially during cold weather.
  • Avoid nose to nose contact, Infectious saliva and moisture from the respiratory tract can cause pneumonia to spread from calf to calf.
  • Keep age groups separated in group housing, older calves will have a more developed immune system.
  • Vaccinate the cow/heifer and the protection is transferred via colostrum.
  • Avoid buying calves that could carry new bugs.
  • Prevent aspiration pneumonia caused by incorrect feeding.
  • Minimise weaning stress by leaving rehousing, tagging and dehorning until later.
  • Vaccinate the calf before group housing.

Solution - A vet will provide the correct antibiotics, but as they grow less effective, more focus needs to be on prevention.


Bleeding Calf Syndrome

Cause

The disease is caused by antibodies absorbed from this colostrum. These antibodies attack the bone marrow cells in the calf after suckling which almost destroy it completely.

This leaves the calf unable to produce red and white blood cells, leaving the calf without a functioning immune system.

While Bleeding Calf Syndrome was linked to a Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) vaccine, the exact nature of the connection is unclear.

Symptom

Their bodies can’t create blood clots, which causes the bleeding effect

Bleeding Calf Syndrome

Image source

Prevention

If your cow’s colostrum causes Bleeding Calf Syndrome once, it will always cause it.

When you know this you can make sure to stop the calf from suckling. Moocall can be useful in this case as you can be there to take control of the situation.

Solution

There is no cure for this condition; it first appeared in 2007. However since the vaccine has been pulled from market it should disappear over time.

Liver Fluke

Cause

Ingestion by cattle at pasture.

Symptom

loss of weight, anaemia, severe liver damage, susception to other disease.

The life cycle of a liver fluke

Image Source

Prevention

Fence off wet areas, attend to leaky troughs and pipes, drain your land or house your animals early. Take note if it is affecting your sheep herd

Solution

You can dose your cattle for it at housing. While this isn’t directly connected to calving or the calf, it can hinder the calving process due to your cow having a lower Body Condition Score (BCS).

Scours

Scours is not a specific disease but it is a symptom of another disease. There are a number that could bring about scours.

Noninfectious

Cause
sometimes a change in milk replacer brands, overfeeding, underfeeding, selenium deficiency, antibiotic treatment, and other oral treatments cause scours.
Prevention
These changes should be made gradually and evaluated.
Solution
Keep the calf hydrated, and make sure they are eating. It should run its course.
Scours in calves

Cryptosporidiosis

Cause
Contaminated feed and water in manure and soil. These Parasites can lie dormant for up to a year. This causes severe gut damage
Symptoms
Watery brown to light green faeces, blood and mucus.
Often detected in combination with rotavirus, coronavirus and E. coli.

Coccidia

Cause
Contaminated feed and water in manure and soil. They can lie dormant for up to a year.
Symptom
Blood-tinged diarrhoea
Calving Scours

Salmonella

Symptom
High fever of 40-42 degrees and depression. This is followed by diarrhoea. Yellow to white faeces with blood stains. Eventually becomes dark brown and watery with an offensive odour

E. coli K99 bacteria

Cause
Manure-contaminated mud
Symptoms
Yellow to white faeces
NEW BORN CALF DISEASE PREVENTION SIGNS

Coronavirus

Symptom
Severe depression. Watery brown to light green diarrhoea with blood and mucus. As the scour continues for several hours the fecal material may contain clear mucus that resembles the white of an egg.

Rotavirus

Symptom
Severe depression. Watery brown to light green diarrhoea with blood and mucus. No appetite.
depressed-calf-dehydrated

Prevention of scours

  • All calves get colostrum
  • Vaccinate cows
  • Keep calving area clean
  • Calf in dry areas
  • Segregate calves by age
  • Keep a good feeding programme for the cow during gestation

Explore these steps in more detail here: https://moocall.com/blogs/calving/preventing-calf-scours-at-calving-time

Solution to scours

Rehydration by oral and or parental means. Death in young calves by diarrhoea is mainly attributed to fluid losses, electrolyte imbalances and increased excretion of water, minerals and nutrients.

Because every cause of scours is so different, it is worth consulting your vet about for a proper solution.

What other diseases do you look out for at calving time? What preventative measures do you take? Tell us in the comments below, and share this post.

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