| October 13, 2001 | 0 Comments

 By Barbara Smail

Remember my recent article that began “Keep your calves out of the poo!”? Well guess who was in it, to the top of her overalls this spring.

Our calves should have had a great start – clean, fresh sawdust with draught free sunny sheds, freshwater, meal and hayfeeders all installed – and for the first week, the calves looked great.

Then I started getting the odd lethargic calf, who within 24 hours of looking “dull” was scouring virtually water. Blood tests were done and all came back negative. A few days later, and a few more dead calves, a post mortem and more blood tests revealed ROTAVIRUS.

“Rotavirus is infectious. Even with good disinfection, most calves will be exposed to it and most will show signs,” said Bruce Thomson, Vetco.

Well we intended to beat the bug, and set up remote pens, new feeders, drenched every calf with fresh colostrum and still every single pen got it.

Labnet Invermay newsletter comments:

“Rotavirus is the predominant causative agent of calf diarrhoea in this area. Is this because less colostrum?” � (not in our case) “Or is it because of the increased amount of herd mixing going on” – (quite possibly, introduced animals are present)

“On its own Rotavirus produces self limiting diarrhoea with a rapid recovery but unfortunately is often combined with E. Coli, Cryptosporidia and/or Salmonella” – yikes��..

“Calves up to two weeks of age can be affected with Rotavirus …”(which also explains why our calves have been fine back in the original shed once they were a couple of weeks old.)

And yep, we’ve tried all the treatments under the sun! We’ve bought sachets and sachets of premix electrolytes, we’ve bought it by the 10kg bucket, we’ve made it ourselves (baking soda, salt, glucose variations), and we’ve even tried a cement-like product that mixes in with milk (and blocks the feeders!) with varying results.

From our experience, Hydrate Liquid (available from Vetco, in 2 litre bottles) has been the most successful, combined with an antibiotic in severe cases, to stop secondary infection. The best bit of advice I’ve had came from Andrew McFadden BVsc Vetco Kennington – “calves don’t die of scours, they die of dehydration. Keep up the fluids – up to 8 litres spread through the day is fine.”

Certainly the calves that drank heaps of water early on recovered very quickly.

Plan of attack for next year?
Who knows! Pre-calving vaccination is an option, but at $4.25 a cow it’s expensive. Another option is to vaccinate only the heifers as they are first to calve, and preserve their colostrum for calf first feeds.

Or … we can take the risk and manage the situation again if it arises. Anyone who has had Rotavirus however, will agree that it is both time consuming and stressful.

Category: Animal Health

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