Salmonella bacterial species can be a master of disguise. They will often cause diarrhea but not always. The same species of Salmonella can cause sudden death or pneumonia. There are other species that cause chronic wasting. Worse yet, infected cattle can carry Salmonella in their lymph nodes, and months after clinical infection, they can start shedding bacteria and infect their pen mates. So how can we control such a “sneaky” bacteria?

Salmonella control is best accomplished through long-term, consistent programs. A few key points about Salmonella:

1. Once you have Salmonella on your farm, assume you will always have Salmonella on your farm. Between carrier animals and contaminated barns/soil the bacteria will always be there.
2. Flies and birds carry Salmonella. That means every farm is at risk.
3. Salmonella generally rears its ugly head during the heat of the summer when bacteria replicate quickly or in the dead of winter when animals are cold stressed and sanitation is a challenge.
4. Nutritionally challenged animals are very susceptible to Salmonella infection. (Example: A few harsh winters ago, there were some post-weaned calves in outdoor group hutches. Their water tank froze in a couple of hours so those calves were stressed and developed a very severe Salmonella infection.)
5. Infected animals not only shed Salmonella in their feces but also in their saliva. (Infecting water tanks!)

Control Tips:

  •  Super Sanitation! Baby calves are the best place to prevent Salmonella infection because that is where they usually get exposed. A calf exposed to Salmonella at birth may not show signs until post-weaning. Colostrum collection and feeding equipment and milk feeding equipment sanitation is a non-negotiable issue when it comes to controlling Salmonella.
  • Feed a MOS product and/or antibody binder to at risk animals. MOS in the milk/milk replacer is a must have on my calf-rearing checklist. If the farm has issues post-weaning and in cows, I put it in all the rations. Antibody binders in the milk/feed are also helpful in high risk situations.
  • There are several Salmonella vaccination strategies available depending on when your animals get sick. Talk to your VMC veterinarian as there is no one-size-fits-all program for Salmonella control.
  • Be careful with running antibiotics in the milk or feed for longer than 7 days. Long term use of antibiotics will change the intestinal bacteria profile and may allow for a favorable environment for Salmonella to replicate.

Salmonella infections are very frustrating and can be severe and difficult to treat. If you have any questions on your Salmonella control program, please give us a call.

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