Help prevent scours with colostrum management

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Aug 29, 2008
by WLJ

Help prevent scours with colostrum management

Research shows scours can cause up to 18 percent of calf mortality, making it the number one calf killer. A calf’s best defense against scours is colostrum, which carries antibodies that help provide immunity against scours-causing pathogens.

"To get the highest levels of colostrum antibodies, you need to start with a quality nutritional program for the mother cows during gestation," said Jon Seeger, DVM, managing veterinarian with Pfizer Animal Health. "Colostrum develops during late gestation at the same time major fetal growth occurs. These activities require significant quantities of energy and protein. Cow management should focus on quality nutrition to support this colostrum development."

According to Seeger, colostrum management should also focus on enhancing antibody levels in the colostrum. Vaccinating a dam with a scours vaccine helps produce high levels of antibodies in the dam’s blood stream. The antibodies are then transferred to the calf through colostrum, eventually entering the calf’s blood stream through the GI tract.

Cows transfer antibodies from their blood into colostrum two to five weeks prior to calving. Vaccinating against scours before this time helps build up the highest level of antibodies in the cow’s blood during the period that the antibodies are being transferred to the colostrum.

"Vaccination timing is really important because all antibody transfer from the dam to calf is done through the colostrum," explained Seeger. "If the vaccination isn’t done at the right time to help build a high level of antibodies in the cow’s blood stream—and in the colostrum—the calf won’t get the best protection possible."

Producers should also make sure calves nurse early and properly so they get an adequate quantity of colostrum within two hours of birth. Seeger recommends four quarts of colostrum within the first 12 hours of birth and an additional four to six quarts in the first 24 hours after birth. — WLJ