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Disease

346. The young calf is particularly vulnerable to disease. About 170,000 of calves born alive each year die in their first month of life. Scouring (diarrhoea) is the main factor contributing to their death. Respiratory infections are particularly common in calves between 8 and 20 weeks of age.

347. Calves destined for slaughter under the EU calf processing scheme are likely to be at risk of infection and enteric diseases. They should be slaughtered as soon as possible after birth. FAWC would prefer slaughter to take place on-farm but presently the scheme does not allow this. If calves cannot be culled on-farm, they should go to the nearest approved abattoir and not be transported further than necessary.

348. Scouring in calves is most common during the first four weeks of life. Infectious agents such as Escherichia coli, Cryptosporidia, Rotavirus and Salmonella are usually involved but management and stockmanship factors play a very important role in their control. The calf that has received adequate colostrum, and is subsequently correctly fed and housed, is more resistant to disease. Inferior feeds, poor hygiene and incorrect mixing and variable temperature of milk substitute are all important factors in precipitating disease outbreaks.

349. A wide variety of infectious agents (e.g. viruses, mycoplasmas and bacteria) can occur in the respiratory tract of the calf. Clinical disease can usually be avoided if proper attention is paid to the provision of adequate space, ventilation and air-movement. It is also important to avoid the inter-mixing of age groups.

Recommendations

350. A written health and welfare programme should be instituted for the care of calves, particularly where calves are purchased from a variety of sources.

351. Veterinary attention should be sought at an early stage in any outbreak of disease so that the cause can be determined and appropriate action taken.

352. Calves with diarrhoea should be isolated, where practicable, and their diets altered accordingly. This could include the withdrawal of milk or milk substitute feeding for one or two feeds and the offer of warm water and electrolyte solution instead.

353. The EU calf processing scheme should be amended to permit slaughter on-farm. Otherwise, slaughter should take place as near to the point of production as possible. Calves should not be exposed to unnecessary long distance travel.