CALVES are an expens-
ive commodity nowadays, and to successfully rear
healthy calves, prevent-ion of disease is a better financial bet than firefighting clinical outbreaks and attempting expensive treatment.
Boosting of gut health and the general immune system, together with avoidance of calf scour and calf pneumonia, is of paramount importance to avoid a negative financial impact.
It is well-known that scour is the most common disease problem in the young unweaned calf. Calf scour has many potential causes, ranging from bacterial or viral pathogens to protozoal or simply nutritional problems.
Often a combination of these infectious agents, such as E.coli and Cryptosporidium, are involv-
ed in outbreaks on many farms across the UK and Ireland. Many cases of scour spread rapidly, causing severe dehydration with-in a few hours of the onset of the disease.
With calves born with no
protection against the micro-organisms that cause scours, it is vital that they receive initial protection, known as passive immunity, from the correct quantity of high-quality colostrum, and that it is given within the first few critical hours after birth. After this, they will start to develop their own active immunity to protect them. However, this leaves an immunity gap for calves when passive immunity tails off and acquired active immunity is slowly maturing, thereby leaving a ‘gap’ in their immune systems, typically day 7-14 (see image above).
During this high-risk period, newborn calves are more sus-ceptible to infection from path-ogens such as E.coli, Rotavirus, Cryptosporidia, etc, which bio-medical research across various species in recent years has established can damage the tight junctions of the calf’s intestine, leading to a “leaky gut” syndrome.
International scientific literat-ure in the past 10 years has demonstrated how probiotics can seal and close the tight junctions of the gut, thereby improving the gut barrier to infection from these various pathogens. This key feature is undoubtedly one of the believed mechanisms underlying the high efficacy of Provita’s licensed probiotic Protect in E.coli calf scour.
Provita Protect POM VPS is the only veterinary probiotic to be authorised and licensed by the VMD. When given as soon as possible after birth (or upon arrival of bought-in calves), Protect establishes beneficial bac-
teria in the calf’s gut. Various field trials using over 400 calves established the following main benefits of Protect:
n 83 per cent less incidence of scours;
n 50 per cent less incidence of respiratory disease;
n +10 per cent live weight gain weaning;
n +31 per cent average daily weight gain.
Supporting calves gut health and immune system further, and similar to Protect, Provita’s Response range provides high-levels of energy and egg powder, natural EU sourced colostrum and beneficial bacteria. The energy sources in these products are instant and slow release, kick-starting the newborn’s met-abolism and getting it up and sucking quickly.
Provita’s Response range sh-ould be used during periods on farm when disease outbreaks traditionally occur. Invariably this will happen between 7-14 days of age when there is an immunity gap for the calf, when passive immunity from the maternal colostrum weans and the calf slowly starts to build up its own acquired immunity.
Shaw’s Beef farm in County Down explains: “I have always been interested in taking a preventative approach when it comes to the health of calves. We prefer to ensure that when our calves are first born they are given the recommended dose of Provita Protect, and for any particularly hard cases we will give them a shot of Response Paste along with this. We find that it has kept our cases of calf scour under control very well.
“Since we have started using the products I can only recall one case of calf scour and that was actually related to antibiotic usage for pneumonia. For bought-in calves we ensure that they all receive Response Paste as they tend to be slower to drink. As long as they receive Response Paste you find that they will generally be much quicker to drink the next morning.
“On our farm we know that it is very important to ensure that our calves thrive to their potential. We try not to use antibiotics where possible and to use probiotics as a strong preventative approach.”