If you’ve had me on your farm, you’ll know that the majority of calf cases I see out in the country are still related to scours. Today, most dairymen know that scours is not from “overfeeding” calves, but rather it is a response to a change in consistency of feeding or directly due to a pathogen like bacteria, viruses, or protozoa. Because calves have such a new and developing immune system, they are very fragile and susceptible to disease. NAHMS data from 2007 shows that 1 out of every 4 calves scour before they are weaned! I think our producers can do better!

What do we do about it?

1. Have a clean environment. Below is a list of things to check off your list (in order of importance) to be sure your operation is as clean as you can make it.

  • The milk mixer – Remember that milk in this mixer touches ever calf on milk in your operation. If the mixing vat and the hoses coming out of it are not clean, will contaminate all the milk fed.
  • Milk and water Transportation – As milk or water is transported to calves from your mixing location, it has the possibility of becoming contaminated with pathogens even if it started out clean in the mixer. This should also be tested for bacteria. I just recently did a cleanliness audit for a very astute producer and his levels were pristine on all his milking equipment, but his water transportation was heavily contaminated by bacteria. It only carries water, so his employees thought it didn’t need to be cleaned and sanitized. We learned our lesson!
  • Individual bottles and nipples – If the process for cleaning these is wrong, contaminated bottles and nipples can easily cause a scour outbreak. Chances are we’ve all seen this!

2. Test your feeding equipment on a regular basis! Historically on the dairy, this has not been emphasized, but with new antibiotic regulations coming down the pipeline, it is more important than ever to be preventative and look at the process rather than just treating the calf. We can test equipment two ways:

  • Routine culture – this is the “Gold Standard” test to see how much bacteria is in a sample of milk or water or on the surface of equipment. It usually takes about 1 – 3 days and costs between $15 -$17 per sample.
  • Luminometer testing – This test was developed by the food industry to test surfaces in food manufacturing to ensure cleanliness. This technology is still used today and has been adopted by calf consultants to be used out in the field. It works by testing the energy given off by living organisms invisible to the naked eye. You can do this test “calf-side” with results in 15 seconds after taking the swab. Plus it only costs about $11.00 per sample! We are excited to have this new technology here at the VMC to offer to our calf and dairy clients.

If you would like to take your calf care to the next level, give the VMC/Prairie Livestock team a call at (507) 343-0386. We would be happy to help!

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