Summer Scour Syndrome, as highlighted on That’s Farming earlier this week, is a relatively new condition and has not yet been widely researched, according to Michelle McGrath of AHI (Animal Health Ireland).
But, it is a collection of clinical signs, characterised by scour and rapid weight loss, lethargy, a lack of rumination and weakness, which can progress to profound weakness and death.
In this article, McGrath provides our readers with advice on how to prevent the syndrome and treatment.
Summer Scour Syndrome
Firstly, she advises to discuss with your veterinary practitioner and farm advisors if your calf-rearing strategy is optimal.
Also, advocating a gradual weaning ensures a smooth transition from a milk diet to a forage diet.
Concentrates should be introduced to calves from the first week in life to allow the rumen to develop properly because when the calf is born, the rumen is not functioning at all.
Begin weaning up to 4 weeks before removing milk completely, and calves should be consistently eating at least 1kg of concentrate/head/day before weaning.
In line with this, you should avoid making other dietary changes at weaning, as these will increase stress and take longer for the calf to adjust.
For farms with an official Summer Scour Syndrome, diagnosis, it may be worthwhile delaying the weaning age or retaining calves indoors on a concentrate and high-fibre diet for at least one week after weaning before turnout to pasture.
On farms with Summer Scour Syndrome, ensure calves have access to high levels of fibre from stemmy grass or older swards when first turned out to pasture, and an extra source of fibre (straw or hay) may be required.
You should avoid grazing reseeded pastures or leafy (lush) grass for at least 2 months after turnout.
Instead, strip graze calves to encourage the consumption of both the leaf and stem of the grass and avoid pastures that have had slurry or nitrogen applied recently.
She advises that the most important aspect is to monitor dairy calves closely for evidence of diarrhoea and weight loss during their first 4 to 6 weeks post-turnout to grass.
How can I treat calves with Summer Scour Syndrome?
First and foremost, discuss treatment options with your veterinary practitioner, as “there is no cure that works in all cases”.
Therefore, it is important to begin symptomatic treatment as quickly as possible after diagnosis.
Affected animals are immunosuppressed and may have concurrent disease (e.g. respiratory disease), which would also require treatment, she adds.
“The affected calves are usually unresponsive to conventional treatments, only responding to removal from grass.”
“If, following a discussion with your veterinary practitioner, Summer Scour Syndrome is suspected, then affected calves should be removed from grass immediately.”
Housed calves should be fed good quality forage such as hay, silage, or straw along with a good quality calf concentrate and have ad-lib access to water.
Following a period of 4-6 weeks, if calves are recovered sufficiently, they can return to a non-lush pasture, as McGrath describes above, with access to extra fibre and good quality concentrates.