Tackling coccidiosis in calves in Co. Tipperary

Coccidiosis is an increasingly prominent disease in young calves and according to Eamon O’Connell from Summerhill Veterinary Clinic in Tipperary, farmers must be extra vigilant, particularly where hygiene is poor.

“When we started our practice 15 years ago, coccidiosis in calves was pretty much unheard of, whereas now, it is one of the main causes of disease that we are seeing on farm. Failure to control the disease can have a huge impact on a dairy farm, leading to massive labour costs and stress, not to mention the reduction in daily live-weight gain and thrive in the calves,” stated Eamon.

One farmer who witnessed the impact of coccidiosis on farm is dairy farmer, Shane Hanrahan, who is milking 110 cows, in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. Hear Shane’s story in the video below.

“Historically, we had issues with coccidiosis when calves were turned out to grass. Following the advice of my vet, Eamon O’Connell, we implemented a rigorous preventative strategy using strict hygiene protocols and the oral solution, Vecoxan. 

“It has worked really well for us. We’ve had no calf scour and calf health has never been better,” said Shane.

Coccidiosis in calves

Coccidiosis is a disease of the intestine and is often seen in calves ranging in age from 3 weeks to 6 months of age. The disease is caused by a tiny parasitic organism that damages the lining of the gut.

Clinical cases include watery diarrhoea, raised tail head and often the calf may be seen straining to pass faeces. More subtle signs of the disease can be decreased appetite and a reduction in daily live-weight gain.

“In Shane’s case, his calves were having issues with coccidiosis 2-3 weeks post turnout to grass. He is also seeing early cases of coccidiosis in younger calves indoors, particularly where calves are moving from individual pens to group pens and similarly, after stressful situations such as dehorning at 3-4 weeks old,” said Eamon. 

Preventative plan for coccidiosis

“We tried other products on the market; however, Vecoxan has worked the best for us. Every calf now gets treated with Vecoxan at 4 weeks old, to prevent coccidiosis indoors, and receive a second dose at 2 weeks post turnout the to tackle the disease at pasture,” said Shane. 

Vecoxan can be used as a preventative. The active ingredient, diclazuril has a short duration of action which allows exposure to the parasite and the development of natural immunity. This reduces the risk of reinfection going forward.

Eamon advised that the whole group are treated the same, as failure to do so could cause reinfection. If one calf is sick with coccidiosis, we must presume that a number of calves are sub clinical cases also. 

He explained, “When the calves leave the individual pens and enter group pens, they should be left for 7-10 days to gain exposure to the parasite. The whole group should then be treated with Vecoxan as a preventative.

Similarly, when calves are let outdoors, they need exposure to the parasite and after 2 weeks post turnout, the whole group should receive their second dose of Vecoxan. On farms where records are available, the whole group can be treated one week before the expected outbreak.” 

Vecoxan can be administered orally at a rate of 1ml per 2.5kg body weight. For example, a 50kg calf will receive 20mls of Vecoxan.  

Hygiene is key to disease control

Eamonn stresses that Vecoxan alone should not be used in place of poor hygiene and a dirty environment.

“Feeding equipment and calf sheds should be cleaned and disinfected regularly and calves should be kept dry with a warm and comfortable straw bed.

“If your calves experienced coccidiosis last year, look at the paddocks that were a source of disease and avoid them if possible.

“Areas around water troughs and feed troughs can be a source of infection also, so make sure they are clean and dry. If the area begins to get mucky or wet, it is important to move the troughs to a new location,” stated Eamon. 

Don’t take chances

Eamon concluded: “For farmers who suspect a case of coccidiosis on farm this spring or who have had a historic problem with the disease, it is critical to act promptly and contact your local vet to formulate a preventative plan.” 

If you suspect your animals to have coccidiosis, contact your vet. They will carry out a full clinical examination and take faecal samples to confirm if it is coccidiosis. Treatment of your calves will be very much dependent on the outcome of the sample results.

Vecoxan – Added Benefits

  • Vecoxan can be administered to animals of any age or any weight. It is safe to use in calves, lambs, cattle and sheep that are indoors or outdoors.
  • Studies have shown that dairy heifers treated with Vecoxan achieved better average daily live-weight gains than those treated with a toltrazuril based product.
  • Vecoxan is environmentally friendly as the manure from treated animals has no environmental concerns and can be safely applied to land.

Tackling calf scour – Time to think vaccination

The newborn calf will face many infectious diseases in the early stages of life, with calf scour being one of the most common challenges.

Creating a calf health plan now, will help reduce the risk of calf scour occurring in the first place. For Cork dairy farmer, James Murphy, this means making sure colostrum is of the highest quality, in addition to ensuring good environmental hygiene and management on farm.

James highlights the key steps he is taking in preparation for calving 2022 and why vaccination plays such an integral role in his calf health plan to reduce the risk of calf scour occurring on his farm.

Good Colostrum Management – Key to preventing calf scour 

Calves are most at risk of calf scour during the first 4 weeks of life; therefore, rely entirely on good high-quality colostrum for protection.

Paul Ryan, Vet Practitioner with Waterside Vets, Co. Limerick, said that “to achieve adequate protection from calf scour, we recommend vaccinating the cow or heifer with the Bovilis Scour Vaccine 12-3 weeks prior to calving.

“This will allow her to increase the concentration of antibodies produced in colostrum antibodies against the main calf scour causing pathogens,” said Paul.

It is critical that the calf receives three litres of good-quality colostrum as soon as possible after birth. The calf should also be fed within the first two hours of birth, to obtain the necessary antibodies which will kick start the calf’s immune system and protect against disease. 

According to James, “vaccinating the cows prior to calving gives us an extra boost of confidence going into the calving period as we know the colostrum contains the critical antibodies to reduce the risk of calf scour.

“We place a big emphasis on getting the colostrum right and into the calf as soon as possible after birth. We operate the 1,2,3 rule of colostrum, and use a Brix Refractometer to ensure calves receive high-quality colostrum with a reading greater than 22%.”  

Calf health programme to reduce calf scour

The direct cost of treating calf scour can be easily determined from treatment costs and losses, but the overall indirect losses, such as reduced growth rates and labour requirements, are often underestimated.

“We vaccinate against calf scour for two main reasons: Animal welfare and labour. We don’t want the animals getting sick, and from an animal performance point of view, it is important that they reach their target growth rates. Sick calves also add to the workload at an already busy time of year,” explained James. 

He continues, “since vaccinating with the Bovilis Scour Vaccine, we have had no sick calves and there is less pressure on the animals as well as the people working on the farm.”

It is important to remember that calf scour vaccination is not a substitute for good hygiene, housing, and environmental factors. Every attempt should be made to keep housing clean and dry, and reduce draughts, where possible.

All feeding equipment should be disinfected after every milk feeding and calf pens should be cleaned out, power washed and disinfected between batches of calves to reduce the build-up of bugs. 

Bovilis Scour Vaccine – At A Glance

calf scour
  • Single shot primary course.
  • Low dose volume (2ml shot).
  • Intramuscular administration.
  • Broad window of vaccination (Vaccinate pregnant cows 12-3 weeks pre-calving).
  • Reduces the severity of diarrhoea caused by E. coli (K99).
  • Reduces the incidence of scours caused by rotavirus.
  • Reduces the shedding of virus by calves infected with rotavirus and coronavirus.
  • Unique 28 day in-use shelf life.
  • Reduce the risk of breakage with new PET bottles.
  • Available in 5, 20 and now 50 dose packs.

For more information, visit the MSD Animal Health scour page or talk to your vet about the Bovilis Scour Vaccine.


Bovilis Scour Vaccine – The leading calf scour vaccine

The Bovilis Scour Vaccine is a single-shot injectable vaccination, given to pregnant cows to subsequently help protect the calf from diarrhoea caused by rotavirus, coronavirus and E. coli (k99), once the calf has been fed sufficient colostrum.

The Bovilis Scour Vaccine is a single 2ml vaccine. It is administered to pregnant cattle 12 – 3 weeks prior to calving. It is given into the muscle of the animal.

scour vaccine

The Bovilis Scour Vaccine will stimulate the dam to produce antibodies which will protect the calf against rotavirus, coronavirus and E.coli (K99). These antibodies will be stored in the dam’s colostrum. The dam will pass these antibodies to the calf through the colostrum at the first milk feeding.

This is why is is crucial that the calf receives adequate colostrum as soon as possible after birth.

Remember the 1,2,3 rule when feeding colostrum. In the 1st 2 hours, ensure the calf gets at least 3 litres of colostrum. Feeding the calf good quality colostrum will enhance the protection of the calf against these scour causing pathogens.

New additions to the Bovilis Scour Vaccine

The Bovilis Scour Vaccine has undergone some recent changes. The following are some of the changes to note:

  • The vaccine pack has changed from blue to purple packaging.
  • A new 50 dose pack size, is now available to complement our current 5 dose and 20 dose presentations and to support use whatever the herd size.
  • All presentations are being transitioned from glass to a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle, instead of glass vials, to reduce the risk of breakage.
scour vaccine

Bovilis Scour Vaccine – How does it work?

  • Single shot primary course
  • Low dose volume (2ml shot)
  • Intramuscular (IM) administration
  • Broad window of vaccination (Vaccinate pregnant cows 12-3 weeks pre-calving)
scour vaccine

Why choose the Bovilis Scour Vaccine?

  • Reduces the severity of diarrhoea caused by E. coli (K99)
  • Reduces the incidence of scours caused by rotavirus
  • Reduces the shedding of virus by calves infected with rotavirus and coronavirus
  • Unique 28 day in-use shelf life
  • Reduces the risk of breakage with new PET bottles
  • Available in 5, 20 and now 50 dose packs

NEW calf scour guide

Want to learn more about calf scour and how you can use the Bovilis Scour Vaccine to protect your calves against scour? Check out our NEW Calf Scour Guide by scrolling through the PDF document below.

Ask your vet about our new Calf Scour Guide and how you can use the Bovilis Scour Vaccine to help reduce the risk of calf scour occurring on your farm.