“I’ve been in this business—treating sick cattle—for 41 years, and we tend to think that a certain bug causes such-and-such disease and another bug causes this other disease,” says David Rethorst, DVM.

“In the past 20 years I’ve come to realize that certain bugs may be associated with certain diseases, but when we see something like scours, this is actually a clinical sign telling us there’s something else wrong in the production system, allowing this to happen. Either the immune system is overwhelmed with too many pathogens (contaminated environment), or the immune system is suppressed,” he says.

The importance of good husbandry with scours

Crypto and other diarrhea-causing problems in calves can best prevented by good herd health and calving hygiene. Young calves in dirty conditions are more likely to become infected. 

“Yes, we have to treat these calves and save them, but I immediately start looking for the underlying cause. What can we do differently to prevent this problem next year?”

We can’t just look for a vaccine or magic drug, because the underlying problems are generally management issues that can be helped by doing something different. There are times we do need to switch vaccines, but vaccines are not always the answer, and never the total answer.

“Good management is always important. There’s an old saying that there are cow people, and there are people who own cows, and there’s a huge difference,” says Rethorst. If you are raising cattle you must be in tune with everything involved in raising those animals.

“In many instances we’ve gotten away from basic animal husbandry. We tend to reach for a vaccine, or a new antibiotic, but we really need to take a look at the way we are doing things,” he says.

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