Bridging the immunity gap in young calves

Diarrhoea (scours) is the most common disease problem in the young unweaned calf. It is estimated that it affects in varying degrees over a third of all calves during their rearing period and is responsible for about half of all British calf deaths. Problems arise in all types of cattle husbandry systems. (MDC & NADIS)

Calves are born with no protection against scour causing microorganisms. They must therefore receive initial protection via colostrum from their mother, known as passive immunity. After this they must develop their own active immunity.

Many things can negatively affect this process. Some of these are out of control e.g. in approximately a quarter of scours the pathogen cannot be identified and could be resistant, this can result in vaccinations and antibiotics being less effective.

However other things are within the control for the farmer such as hygiene and colostrum intake. Bedding for newborn calves should be dry enough so that you could kneel down without feeling dampness. Adequate good quality colostrum is essential for calves to get off to a good start, they should receive at least 2 litres asap after birth, additionally colostrum should be tested to ensure it is good quality.

Protection for the newborn calve can be increased by using Provita Protect, an effective proven oral probiotic. It can also be used to bridge the immunity gap. This gap occurs when the passive immunity from colostrum has decreased and the active immunity from calve itself has not increased quickly enough leading to a gap in the immune system, see diagram. Most vaccinations recommend that quality vaccinated colostrum is fed to calves for the first two weeks, however on most dairy farms this does not happen.

Provita also supply probiotics in powder form, WD Ruminant (water dispersible), so that it can be fed conveniently in the milk for the first few weeks after the calf is born. It can also be applied via automatic calve feeders.

Other products for newborn calves in the Provita range include; Calf Colostrum concentrate powder which contains natural dried colostrum, egg powder, probiotics, vitamins and mineral plus a full nutritional feed which is high in energy; Response Capsules contain probiotics, colostrum, egg powder and vitamins; Response Paste contains probiotics, colostrum, energy, egg powder and vitamins; Response WD (water dispersible) contains probiotics, colostrum, egg powder and vitamins, which is especially useful from day 2 to day 10 after birth.