Each year producers have lost several dollars in profit, either by loosing calves or in the expense of treating calves that have diarrhea problems. These problems can be in most cases prevented with good management practices. Calf diarrhea may be caused by bacteria, viral or poor nutrition.
The first 24 to 36 hours is the most critical part in the newborn’s life. The mother must produce colostrum in enough quantity and concentration to help prevent disease in the first few weeks of the newborn’s life.
E. coli or clostridium bacteria mainly cause the cases seen in our clinic. There has, on occasion, been a viral cause, which could be either Rota or Corona viruses. We also know that Vitamin E Selenium deficiency can play a roll in some diarrhea problems.
Producers may decrease the amount of calf diarrhea in their herd by using good vaccination program. There are several good, commercial vaccines available today, but most must be used in a timely fashion prior to calving. In our area, producers will use a vaccine, six to eight weeks prior to the first calf being born. This will booster the mother’s antibodies in the colostrum and protect the calf, in its first three to four months of life. Some producers will even give their first immunization to first calf heifers when they turn the bull in, and then rebooster the vaccine in six to eight weeks before calving season starts. This has almost eliminated calf diarrhea in several herds in our area. I also recommend asking about vitamin and mineral supplementation as this to can help booster the immune system for both the mother and the offspring.
A veterinarian can suggest a vaccination program specific to the problems for a particular herd.
Dr. Rusty Waide, DVM, has been the owner of Buffalo Veterinary Clinic for 21 years.