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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Niall Hurson Twitter

Game-changing calf scour vaccine imminent

Up to 40pc of calf deaths in the first six weeks of life are scour-related

A game changing vaccine against cryptosporidiosis is expected to be launched this year, the Farming Independent has learned.

It’s understood the vaccine has been in development by MSD for the past five years and could have a dramatic impact on lowering calf mortality on Irish farms.

There is strong optimism around its efficacy, an MSD Ireland source said. Cryptosporidiosis is an infection from a parasite that causes scour in young calves. In recent years, up to 40pc of calf deaths in the first six weeks of life have been scour-related, with crypto one of the main causes.

​Calves from 5-35 days are susceptible, but it generally occurs in the second week of life. Calves usually get a persistent scour that is very difficult to cure.

The infection will cause severe damage to the lining of the gut wall and destroy the ability of the animal to absorb nutrients.

Calves will be lethargic, stop drinking and can become dehydrated quickly. Four days after being infected, they begin to shed vast quantities of oocytes in their scour. This leaves the environment heavily contaminated for other calves, which then become infected.

Speaking at a CalfCare event in Tipperary last week, Tullamore vet Donal Lynch said: “Last year, we looked at the scour samples that came into our practice and over 50pc of them were crypto. A crypto vaccine is what people are most looking for.”

Mr Lynch says that if farmers are struggling with crypto, they should protect against other scour-causing pathogens such as rotavirus, coronavirus and E. coli to reduce the overall burden.

“Crypto is basically caused by calves ingesting other calf or cow manure with crypto in it. It can come through the milk when the calf starts sucking a dirty teat,” he says.

“When a calf ingests a small amount of crypto, by the time it passes it out again, you’re into millions of bugs. That’s how it can quickly circulate within a pen or a group.

“If you have a calf that shows any sign of scour, you should isolate them.”

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