How to avoid an outbreak of scour

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Written by Agriland Team

We are entering the thick of the calving season on dairy farms across the country, and as the number of calves on farms begins to grow, so does the risk of a scour outbreak.

Scour is the leading cause of death in calves under three months-of-age.

An outbreak of scour can not only be a stressful period of time on farms, it can also add to the workload at an already extremely busy time of the year. Not to forget the impact it can have on the calf, or calf’s health.

Colostrum


Calves are born with no immunity, so colostrum is needed to provide the calf with vital antibodies needed to protect themselves against infection.

Also Read: Colostrum: A calves most important feed
Farmers should follow the 1-2-3 rule when feeding colostrum. The first feed is within two hours of birth with at least 3L of colostrum. As the season progresses, this rule must remain to the forefront of farmers’ minds.

Hygiene


Hygiene is of the utmost importance when trying to prevent a scour outbreak. The calf pens should be cleaned out and disinfected regularly. The calving area should also be cleaned out and disinfected when possible.

A bed shouldn’t be allowed to become damp or dirty. A clean, deep bed of straw should be kept under calves and cows at all times.

The same goes for feeding equipment. Teat feeders, buckets, bottles and stomach tubes must be kept cleaned – and disinfected regularly.

Shed space


An aspect of the calving season that may be overlooked on many farms is ensuring that you have enough calf space and accommodation to meet peak demand.

Calves need a minimum space of 1.7m² each. Over-stocking pens will lead to an increased risk of scour or a disease outbreak.

Also Read: Have you enough space for all your calves at peak?
Identification and isolation


It is important that a poorly calf is detected as early as possible – to avoid disease escalation, infection of other calves or in the worst case death.

Also Read: Dairy advice: Treatment of a scouring calf
Once a calf is identified as having scour, the calf or calves must be isolated to help avoid it spreading to other calves. It is advisable to then take a dung sample to identify the cause of the scour.

If there is a scour outbreak, the following is advised:

  • Remove the sick calf or calves;
  • Re-hydrate – give calves electrolytes in milk or water;
  • Continue to feed milk / milk replacer – although a sick calf might have a reduced appetite, it is important that they are fed their daily feed as normal.


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Early moves to target wild oats

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Growers and agronomists now face the dilemma of an early application to remove competition from emerged wild oats, or holding off to allow more weeds to germinate.

Syngenta grassweeds technical manager, Georgina Wood, urges Axial Pro treatment as soon as conditions allow, once weeds are actively growing.

“That offers the chance to control wild oats more cost effectively at lower rates, whilst there is still the flexibility to tailor application rates up to 0.82 l/ha for larger or over wintered weeds and difficult situations.

“The variability of crops and situations this season means decisions for appropriate Axial Pro rates and application techniques will need to be made on a field-by-field basis,” she advised.

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Miss Wood urges...
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