Causes / Prevention

Management is key factor in prevention of calf diseases.

Promoting natural drinking behaviour

Calves drinking from automatic calf feeder

Overcoming contagious diseases like pneumonia and calf scours can be very hard to realize. To be able to overcome these diseases as quickly as possible, a well designed management system is a key factor. It will also help to identify and eliminate the root causes.

A good example of this approach can be found at this website: In this article about the farm of Peter and Alison Holliday and sons Ian and Alistair, there were several causes examined simultaneously to be able to reduce the chances of future outbreaks of pneumonia. This approach is of course also valid for other diseases, like calf scours.

What were the causes on this farm? First they identified that their colostrum management was not optimal and could be improved. Second, bucket feeding limited their calves in growth and natural drinking behavior and thus limited their health. Other thing that were looked at was ventilation, housing and stocking.

They identified the following solutions to the many problems on their farm.

  • Do not mix groups of animals with varying levels of immunity – mixing increases ‘stress’
  • Minimize pathogen challenge by improving housing and ventilation
  • Maximize colostrum quality and quantity to ensure antibodies get from mother to calf
  • Watch out for other diseases which compromise the immune system
  • Poor nutrition, from inadequate milk intake to vitamin deficiencies, can have its effect
  • Avoid multiple procedures at the same time (weaning, disbudding etc) to reduce risk
  • Monitor environmental temperature changes – humid and damp to cold and dry – which increases risk
  • Do not overstock, preventing air circulating and increasing infection pressure from ‘bugs’
  • Groups above 20 animals significantly increase risk
  • Keep bedding fresh and dry to help with air quality

As you can see it has become a total picture of what has to be done to prevent pneumonia and other diseases. If this management system is executed consequently then the chances of having contagious diseases will be reduced dramatically. Read also my article about good nutrition that can help preventing contagious diseases.

Article source: Stackyard Agricultural Links

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