April 24, 2012

April Showers brings May Scours

I know the rhyme is suppose to be April Showers Brings May Flowers but in our world it can also bring scours in our new baby calves.  Scours (really bad diarrhea) is a very common illness that effects young calves and from a quote I heard last week costs the beef industry over $1 billion annually.  We work hard to prevent the calves from getting scours in many ways but it at some point in time every beef producer will have deal with scours.  Weather plays a pretty big role in scours as the organisms that cause the problem tend to like wetter environments.  The reason that scours are so costly to the beef industry isn't just the cost to treat the infections it is also the loss of life and the loss of production efficiency.  Scours can kill a perfectly healthy calf in within a few days (sometimes less when it is really hot) if not detected and treated fast enough.  The calf doesn't die from the diarrhea but from the effects the diarrhea has through dehydrating them and weakening the immune system opening the door for other illness like pneumonia.  Sick calves don't gain weight especially when their bodies are moving the nutrients the take in out of their bodies at an astronomical pace which can lead to substantially lower weaning weights.  With the welcomed rains and little cooler temperatures we have seen the past few weeks we have been watching the calves like a hawk watching a newly swathed hay field for mice.  Every evening when I get home from the day job I am on "poopy butt" patrol.  Right now we have about 125 calves (only 22 cows left to calve) and I make sure that I see each and everyone to make sure that they don't have any "bad" looking poop.  I know sounds like a crappy job but I don't want any problems and any sick calves. 

This healthy heifer was very interested in
what I was doing while out on poop patrol
last night! 
 We do all that we can to help prevent the calves from getting scours.  We vaccinate the cows pre-calving to help build the calves immune systems before they are born, we try to group the calves by age in separated pastures, make sure there are plenty of clean dry places for the calves to hang out and sleep, and the later calves we give a shot of immune building minerals to help their immune systems stay strong to fight off infections.  Any calf showing signs of scours are immediately treated with an antibiotic according to the FDA directions for use and dose along with a shot of immune building minerals.  We also keep a record of which calves were treated, what they were treated for, which antibiotics are used and the date.  So far the few we have treated have responded well and have stayed healthy.   

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