Vaccinating cows with Rotavec® Corona has been part of a holistic approach which has boosted calf health and reduced stress levels for Derbyshire farmer Sam Chadfield.
Mr Chadfield runs 100 Holstein Friesians yielding 26 litres per cow per day at 4.1% fat and 3.2% protein.
A few years ago, he felt like he was constantly treating calves for scours and battling to get calves off to a good start.
He says: “They went down like flies. They kept dropping as soon as they were born.
“When you looked at our animals you could see they didn’t have a good start. I believe the milk starts in the calf.
If you keep a healthy calf from day one, I’ll get more out of her when she’s in-milk.
We wanted to improve the health of the whole farm.” With that in mind, Mr Chadfield undertook a Calf Health Checklist with vet Shrea Patel, of McMurty and Harding.
In response, he overhauled the design of an existing calf building; ripping everything out and putting in a raised, slatted stock board floor and splitting calves into groups.
Milk feeding rates were also increased to deliver 900g of milk solids instead of 500g and the team stuck with the policy of feeding four litres of quality colostrum immediately after a calf is born.
He was initially ‘pig-headed’ and reluctant to spend on vaccination, but the scour problems continued.
It was then that Ms Patel tested the cows and found they were shedding E.coli K99 into the environment.
As a result, Mr Chadfield started vaccinating all of the dams with Rotavec® Corona.
He says: “As soon as we vaccinated the cows pre-calving it stopped E.coli in its tracks.
We haven’t had a case since.” Good colostrum management ensures calves receive exactly what they need.
However, a few months later, scours became a problem again.
A farm scours testing kit identified that calves were infected with rotavirus.
“I didn’t know you were supposed to keep the vaccine in the fridge,” says Mr Chadfield – which explains why the vaccine hadn’t provided adequate protection. Since then, the data sheet has been followed.
The team is also keen to rest the shed between calves, although this is challenging on the allyear-round calving system.
Mr Chadfield is convinced the vaccine is worth the investment.
“I’ll carry on using it now. If I don’t it will start flaring up in the shed.
As soon as a calf gets rotavirus you can add two weeks on to the rearing time,” he says.
“A lot of calf rearing gets overlooked, but it’s so important to focus on it.
It gets big results at the end. It’s about building the immune system.”
Want to continue reading the series? Click the links below!