Scours prevention should begin long before calves are born. The immune system in a newborn calf is not prepared to take on a severe scours challenge, so protection must be provided another way - consumption of antibody-bolstered colostrum.

"We learned long ago that a program to prevent calf scours should include vaccination of the cow," says Dr. Jon Seeger, senior technical services veterinarian with Pfizer Animal Health.

"The time needed from vaccination of the calf to development of solid protection is longer than incubation for many diseases that cause scours," he explains. "By vaccinating the cow before calving, newborn calves are protected from the organisms that cause scours by consuming antibodies in the dam's colostrum. This is passive immunity and is an insurance policy for those first few critical days of the calf's life."

Researchers Thomas Wittum and Louis Perino, DVM, of the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, studied the effect of passive immune status in beef calves. superscript 1 They measured antibodies in the blood of 263 crossbred calves 24 hours after birth, then tracked illness and death from birth to weaning and from weaning to market.

Results showed calves with the lowest immunity levels were 5.4 times more likely to die before weaning and 3.2 times more likely to suffer from disease. A significant difference in weaning weight was also noted: Calves that were sick during their first 28 days of life weighed 35 pounds less at weaning on average.

Additional research data superscript 2 shows that calves affected by clinical diarrhea the first month of life are 17.18 lbs. lighter at weaning on average than healthy calves.

Early intervention is vital The bottom line for scours prevention: Protect the calf by vaccinating the cow, says Dr. Seeger. "ScourGuard 3[R] (K)/C administered to replacement heifers and cows will provide passive protection and help get calves off to a great start."

ScourGuard 3(K)/C guards against four leading causes of calf scours: E. coli bacteria (K99), rotavirus, coronavirus and Clostridium perfringens type C. Of the four, rotavirus and coronavirus are most prevalent, implicated in more than 35% of calfhood scours cases. superscript 3 E. coli accounts for 22% of scours outbreaks in beef calves and is most common the first week of age superscript 3. Cl. perfringens type C is not as common of an agent in the scours complex, but can be seen in calves that consume too much milk from high-producing cows.

Colostral antibodies bolstered by ScourGuard 3(K)/C help stop the disease process at the site of infection by preventing deadly K99 E. coli bacteria from attaching to the calf's gut wall. And colostral and milk antibodies for rotavirus and coronavirus interfere with the viruses' ability to damage the lining of the small intestine.

To get the antibody protection they need, calves should consume at least four liters of high-quality colostrum during the first 12 hours of life. Keep in mind colostrum can be tailor-made to contain specific antibodies by carefully deciding which vaccines are administered to the cow.

Study shows savings A North Dakota study superscript 4 showed significant advantages in calves nursing cows vaccinated with ScourGuard 3(K)/C:

- Calves from vaccinated cows had 59% less scours-related illness than calves from nonvaccinated cows.

- More calves from nonvaccinated cows scoured two days or longer.

- Vaccination (including labor and product costs) saved an average of $0.51 per cow over the cost of treating calves from nonvaccinated cows.

To arrive at that figure, researchers determined vaccine and labor costs for vaccinating half the group, or 41 cows, totaled $164. Treatment costs for calves from vaccinated cows added another $90.80, including labor. The nonvaccinated group had a treatment cost of $275.60. (Labor contributed 77% to the cost of treatment for both groups.) The net effect was a prevention and treatment cost-savings of $20.80, or $0.51 per cow.

Keys to success Vaccination timing and a two-dose regimen is critical to success in a scours prevention program. Pfizer recommends the following protocol:

Vaccination alone will not always prevent calf scours, reminds Dr. Seeger. "Rarely can we pinpoint a single cause. Environment, nutrition and multiple disease agents all contribute to scours outbreaks. Management to reduce stress, optimal nutrition and a good vaccination program are key to scours prevention."

ScourGuard 3(K)/C provides valuable insurance against sick calves. Manage your risk by making ScourGuard 3(K)/C an integral part of your vaccination program and protect your calves' future. It's an investment that will pay for a lifetime.

References: 1. Wittum T. and Perino, L. 1995. Passive immune status at postpartum hour 24 and long-term health and performance of calves. Am J Vet Res. Vol. 56, No. 9, September.

2. Cornaglia E.M., et. al. 1992. Reduction in morbidity due to diarrhea in nursing beef calves by use of an inactivated oil-adjuvanted rotavirus-E. coli vaccine in the dam. Vet Micro 30:191-201.

3. DxMonitor. 1992. Animal Health Report. USDA-APHIS-VS. Fall.

4. Boland W., Cortese V. and Steffen D. 1995. Interactions between vaccination, failure of passive transfer and diarrhea in beef calves. Agri-Practice, 16:25-28, April.