Protect calf health to maximise growth and fertility

Coccidiosis has been shown to cost the average dairy herd between £25 and £60 per affected calf. This doesn’t include associated, and often unseen costs, such as delayed time to first service. To protect herd productivity, it’s vital to get on top of this re-occurring disease challenge that is present on most dairy units.
Alison Clark, Progiene product manager, explains that this industry research, carried out in 2008 to estimate the costs of coccidiosis, included the cost of losses to daily liveweight gain (DLWG), as well as treatment and labour costs.
“Current feed costs and market prices for dairy replacements means these figures could now be much higher. The value of replacements has been increasing year on year, so protecting youngstock is an essential investment in the future.
“Replacement dairy heifers represent the third biggest component of total herd costs, after feed and labour, and between 13 and 16% of these potential dairy replacements fail to reach the first calving due to calf mortality or conception failures. It’s really important therefore to protect youngstock from disease challenges, such as coccidiosis, to limit these losses.
“Clinical signs of coccidiosis are the tip of the iceberg. It’s generally accepted that only 5% of infected calves will show clinical signs. 95% will have sub-clinical signs, which may not be immediately obvious, but will still have a negative effect on feed conversion and growth rates, which will consequently lead to compromised fertility rates and reduced longevity.
“The coccidia oocytes have a complex lifecycle, which includes the ability to live outside of the host for long periods of time, while being resistant to most disinfectants.”
Alison explains that limiting the environmental challenge faced by young calves with naive immune systems is an essential part of any control plan. “Prevention has been proven to have a positive effect on calf performance, and every effort should be made to limit calf exposure to high levels of pathogens. 
“Naive immunity in youngstock, combined with the physiological stresses associated with moving or mixing new batches, or overcrowding, is when stock are particularly at risk to disease challenge.
“Disinfection should be a part of the routine farm biosecurity plan, to limit the environmental challenge faced by youngstock. Particular attention should be paid to hutches and calf pens.
“Any calf disease that, like coccidiosis, limits growth and performance, can have a dramatic and negative affect on the individual animal, and the overall herd profitability. Prevention is always better than cure, and infinitely more cost effective,” says Alison.
Progiene’s new broad spectrum, Defra approved disinfectant, Coxicur, is proven to be effective against coccidiosis, cryptosporidium, viruses, bacteria, moulds and yeasts.