There are two times of the year when we address many cases of calf diarrhea. The first time is in the winter when the calves are cold stressed and the second is in the heat of the summer. There are a few unique challenges that happen when temperatures heat up.

Challenge #1: Colostrum quality
Colostrum quality tends to decrease in July and August. This is a result of heat stress and decreased DMI in dry and close-up cows.

Solution: Provide shade and cooling for dry and close-up cows. Clean their water tanks at least once a week. Test colostrum with a refractometer and discard the samples with poor quality. Use a high quality colostrum replacement product if colostrum tests poor and you do not have high quality colostrum frozen. (We recommend Calf’s Choice Total colostrum replacement products.)

Challenge #2: Flies
Flies carry bacteria and viruses on their legs and mouths. It is that simple.

Solution: Utilize integrated pest management to control the flies. Dr. Hazel wrote some nice articles on fly control this spring. Give us a call if you need help with those disease carrying pests.

Challenge #3: E. coli bacteria double every 20 minutes.
Summer in the Midwest is like living in an incubator. E. coli and other bacteria have ideal conditions for duplicating rapidly and causing trouble. I swabbed a “clean” looking esophageal feeder tube the other day and the bacteria count on the end of my swab was 19,000,000 E. coli. The calf fed colostrum via that tube was exposed to BILLIONS of E. coli bacteria. We see cases where the E. coli that the calf ingested from their environment did not cause the disease but stressed their immune system enough so they were susceptible to other diseases.

Solution: Clean with soap and disinfectant everything that touches the calf. Colostrum buckets, esophageal feeders, funnels, mixing buckets…If items are hard to clean like hoses or esophageal feeder tubes, throw them away and purchase new ones every few months. Hot water is not a disinfectant. Rinsing equipment with water without using soap and following with a disinfectant WILL leave bacteria on the surface.

Remember these calves are babies with a very vulnerable immune system. If you are having trouble with your calves this summer, walk through every step and every item that that calf is exposed to from birth through 24 hours. The answer is in front of us, we just have to keep looking until we find it.

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