Angus VNR: Prevention and Preparation Pay

Health management at the cow-calf level affects profitability through the beef supply chain, and beef quality on the plate.

“As soon as that calf hits the ground, what we do not only at the time the calf is born, but even what we do to the dam while the calf is en utero sets that animal up for future productivity – not only at the home farm, but all the way through to the stocker backgrounder or feedlot to finish,” says Markey Alley, senior technical services veterinarian for Zoetis.

As new calves are born, along come the health risks of invading pathogens and nutritional imbalance. These may first show up as diarrhea in the newborns, a signal to take action.

“When we start talking about calf scours, it gets to be very challenging for producers to manage because they’ve got a lot of things that are going on. Things that we really want to focus on for those calves is making sure we correct their dehydration. That’s probably the first thing on the agenda. We also want to make sure that we’re correcting any electrolyte abnormalities that may occur, especially with potassium and sodium. And then we also want to make sure that we’re correcting that metabolic acidosis,” Alley says.

Treatment can begin the turnaround while symptoms continue or worsen, but Alley says keep using the right electrolyte product and monitor results as calves gradually improve.

“Oftentimes, our calf scours may actually get worse when we provide that because of the disease process. And a producer may stop providing electrolytes to those animals, and that may be one of the most detrimental things that we could do. So I always encourage producers if they’re trying to treat calf scours, use the appropriate electrolyte, do it at the right time, and then monitor the calf by looking at what’s going on with the ears and the eyes. Bright and alert calves, even if they still have clinical signs, we’re probably on the right track with our treatment if the calf is bright and alert, regardless of what’s going on under the tail,” Alley notes.

Good record keeping can make a difference in future treatment plans.

“Our ultimate goal is to prevent these animals from getting sick. The best way we can do that is understand what has happened in the past, and treatment records are very critical to that. We want to know what the individual animal’s ID was, what we treated with, what we treated for, and then what the ultimate outcome was. Ideally, we’d like to know what the age of that animal is because that would help lead us down a direction as to which pathogens may be involved. And as a result, we can develop some strategies to hopefully prevent those in the future,” Alley says.

Don’t limit advice to reading labels and directions, because there’s a professional resource just a phone call away that can help producers prepare for whatever comes along with new calves.

“The main thing that you want to do is make sure that you have that relationship with your veterinarian. We always need to understand what we’re going to do when problems occur. Have a treatment plan in place with the hope that we never need it, and focus most of our efforts on prevention, but be prepared when those prevention strategies fail,” Alley concludes.

With that line he penned about an ounce of prevention, maybe Ben Franklin raised a few calves in his day…