Cryptosporidium parvum is an important protozoal cause of neonatal scours in calves, commonly referred to as 'Crypto'.
Crypto can be found as a normal inhabitant of the calf's digestive system, but if a calf has any illness or immune suppression then the Crypto organisms can overgrow and cause scours. Scours can appear yellow and watery right through to mucoid, pasty, grey and slimy. Calves are most at risk of becoming infected from four days to four weeks of age, the younger they are infected generally the more severe the disease. Three to six days following infection the calves will begin to shed eggs in their faeces allowing others to become infected too. The infectious dose of these eggs to develop disease is quite low and therefore contaminated feeders and water troughs are a great source of the bug.
Infection with Crypto can also open the gate for "superinfection" with bacteria and viruses. Whilst Crypto does not cause a huge number of deaths, these "superinfections" can cause a high mortality rate.
Any scouring calf, no matter the cause, should be isolated to a designated sick pen. Good hygiene (solid partitions, scrubbing and disinfection of equipment between pens etc.) and good colostrum management (two litres of first milking colostrum within six hours of birth) can help give the calves the best start to life. Vaccinating cows with Rotavec Corona® or Scourguard® pre-calving, and feeding the milk from these cows to the calves, can also help mitigate these "superinfections".
Once definitively diagnosed by the laboratory we can directly target treatment towards Crypto. Halocur® is the only product available that specifically targets Crypto. Given orally once daily for seven days it helps reduce severity of disease and reduce shedding of eggs. Kryptade® is another product that can help in the face of a Crypto outbreak. It is an oral electrolyte that contains an anti-crypto active ingredient that helps affected calves recover faster.
Crypto is a zoonotic disease meaning it can be easily transferred to humans and cause disease if good hygiene practices aren't maintained. Children and immune compromised people are most at risk. It causes prolonged diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Maintain good hygiene practices such as regularly washing of hands after contact with livestock, wearing gloves and coveralls, and not wearing dirty calf rearing clothes home.
If you are having issues with scouring calves or have any questions regarding calf rearing don't hesitate to give us a call!