Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Vaccine to improve calf health

Veterinarian Rob Bonanno is excited at the prospect of going out to fewer cases of calves ill and dying of scours.

CATHY WALKER February 27, 2013 4:20am

Rob Bonanno is excited a vaccine is now on the market to guard against calf scours.

Last week Dr Bonanno said a long-awaited product to vaccinate pregnant cows to protect their calves against rotavirus and coronavirus had been eagerly snapped up by farmers as soon as it hit his Shepparton Veterinary Clinic shelves.

‘‘It’s taken years and years and finally we’ve got it,’’ Dr Bonanno said, brandishing the lone bottle of Rotavec Corona left in his office since farmers were notified it had arrived.

In terms of newborn calf management, the vaccine, manufactured by Coopers Animal Health, is the best thing since sliced bread.

‘‘Rotavirus is the disease that I diagnose most often as causing calf scours (and death) and until this week, there was no vaccine for it.’’

Dr Bonanno said rates of calf scours and subsequent death was ‘‘disappointingly high’’.

‘‘Anything that can bring that figure down is a great thing.’’

He said it was important to get the message out now because the first time to inject cows was 10 to 12 weeks before they calved, and then four to six weeks later, which meant autumn calvers needed to be treated soon.

Calves will gain the benefit of the rotavirus protection only after drinking the colostrum, which is the cow’s first milk, and Dr Bonanno said the importance of ensuring the calf received as much as four litres in its first hours of life could not be understated.

‘‘I tell clients the adage is ‘assume none from mum’ and give the calves stored colostrum.

‘‘That way you won’t die wondering, and hopefully the calves won’t either.’’

The new drug costs a little more than $6 a dose and the treatment is 2ml subcutaneously, twice per cow.

It’s cheap insurance against what Dr Bonanno describes as needless deaths in calves.

‘‘We know for sure there is roto on at least 90 per cent of dairy farms,’’ he said.

Thanks to other scientific advances, the causes of calf scours — rotavirus, coronavirus, E.coli K99, salmonella and cryptosporidia — can now be tested for on-farm and an on-site diagnosis given for most.

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