ONE of the biggest risks to the suckler calf occurs around calving as most beef calves are sired by well-muscled high growth rate bulls. Once a suckler calf is safely delivered its survival chances greatly increase.
The next major threat to health comes from infectious scours and to a lesser extent pneumonia. The majority of calf scours are caused by six organisms: (a) viruses, mainly rotovirus and coronavirus; (b) bacteria, E.coli and salmonella and (c) protozoa, cryptosporidia and coccidia. Reports from the veterinary laboratories indicate that cryptosporidium and rotovirus are the most frequently found organisms associated with calf scours. While there are vaccines available to control rotovirus, no vaccine is available to combat cryptosporidium. All the same, if there is good control of viral and bacterial infections, through the use of good hygiene, management and vaccines, the effects of cryptosporidium infection will be less severe. Cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite similar to coccidium that is extremely common in the environment. It can affect a wide range of species but only causes problems in new-born animals, apart from humans, where it can cause serious diarrhoea in adults as well as infants as the population of Galway will remember from a few years ago.
Outside the host animal, the parasite exists as a resistant spore called an oocyst which develops in the intestine. Sources of infection for the young calf are from the cow and the calving shed. Estimates from the U.S. suggest that an adult bovine sheds 2.5 million oocysts per day in the faeces and that a scouring calf could shed up to 50 billion oocysts in a week.
Since there is no vaccine to control cryptosporidia and only a moderate response to medication, prevention assumes major importance on farms where the diseases have been a problem. A healthy calf with rapid development of immunity from maternal colostrum is a good start. Appropriate management of the cow pre-calving in relation to feeding, body condition, mineral nutrition and parasite control should help. Control of BVD which suppresses the immune system will reduce the severity of calf scours.
Beef Discussion Group Programme Closing
The closing date for completed applications for participation in the Beef Discussion Group Programme must be sent to your local Teagasc office by next Wednesday March 7. There will be a payment of €1,000 per year for 3 years for successful participation in this programme.
Farmers with suckler cows must be current participants in the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme (AWRBS), that is, they must have received payments under the Scheme on 2010 born calves and have applied to participate in ICBF HerdPlus prior to applying for the Programme.
Beef farmers without a suckler herd must have applied to participate in ICBF HerdPlus prior to applying for the Programme. Any farmer finishing animals to slaughter must have applied for membership of the Beef Quality Assurance Scheme (BQAS) before the application date for this Programme and must be a member of the scheme by 31 October 2012. He/she must also have finished a minimum of 15 cattle to slaughter in 2011.
To qualify for payment participants must:
Attend at least five discussion group meetings before October 31, 2012.
Complete a simple 3 year plan with your adviser for your farm; complete a Profit Monitor for your farm in Year 1 or 2; complete one other task selected from a list of seven tasks; host at least one discussion group meeting on your own farm; pay the agreed fee to the facilitator for involvement in the programme
Contact your Teagasc adviser for more detailed information or check the Department of agriculture website at www.agriculture.gov.ie.