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Disease Transmission and Co-Mingling Animals

One of the main diseases that I feel is impacting dairies has been Salmonella, especially S. Heidelberg.

There is no known treatment as it seems to be resistant to a number of antimicrobial products. Therefore, any infected calves should receive supportive care, always continue to feed milk and provide electrolyte therapy.

So, lets discuss how to prevent an outbreak.  This particular bug was isolated in Wisconsin and has moved to other numerous states.  This strain of Salmonella was discovered back in 2018, so not very long ago and has infected many herds.

Operations that buy from sales barns, calf jockeys and other large calf ranches are more likely to experience an outbreak of S. Heidelberg.

This is likely because transport stress makes calves more susceptible to infection and more likely to shed.  Co-mingling calves from multiple sources increases the risk of exposure and calves with low immune status.

One can try to maintain a closed herd, but that is very difficult to do if you are raising bull calves lets say.

1)     Try to buy from a single source and a trusted source that has good colostrum protocols and vaccination programs in place.

2)     Try to confirm they receive adequate colostrum.  Either have the farm provide passive transfer data or if you receive them within 3-5 days of age you can pull blood to check for passive immunity.

3)     Minimize transport distance, long haul calves will  have generally higher health events than calves moved around on farm.

4)     Maintain a clean trailer or moving vehicle for all calves.  Washed, cleaned and disinfected if possible is the Gold Standard.

5)     I hate to mention this but limit visitors to the calf area.  I know calves are cute and love to lick on everyone’s hands but protect yourself and others, people can also contract salmonella. 

SO this bug typically has an impact on calves from 0-3 weeksof age.  S. Heidelberg causes high death rates (25-50%) in dairy and dairy beef calves. Some calves can show clinical signs, such as diarrhea.

They then quickly die within 4-8 hours. Other calves might not show any signs and may be found dead.

This specific strain can spread quickly from calf to calf, and calf to people. The organism can spread from contaminated feeding equipment. 

So, sanitation is key with this as in many other bacteria diseases.   One should wear protective gloves when handling sick animals or cleaning a pen that has had sick animals in it.

Always wash your hands, boots & clothing between groups of calves.

If you feel you have a salmonella event on your operation,contact your local veterinarian and make sure they do a full necropsy’s to makes ure this is the bug of choice. From there, you should discuss treatment,vaccination program.  There are some salmonella vaccines on the market but not all are the same.  Again, work with your herd Vet and maintain a hydration therapy program.

I’ve seen and experienced this on many operations, take the preventative steps to avoid this nasty bug!



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