Two of the speakers at a recent calf rearing conference touched on the sensitive subject of treating calves with antibiotics. Liverpool University research vet. Dai Grove White made it clear that the use of such drugs should not be used to treat scours.

“The one exception to this principle is when the problem is caused by a Salmonella infection,” he added.

“Prevention is always better than cure. In my opinion there is no excuse for poor hygiene standards in calf units. Calves should have clean, dry bedding at all times. Pens should be thoroughly cleaned using a power washer and or soap and water between batches of animals.

“The medical profession is also becoming very concerned about the widespread use of antibiotics and the problems this may cause regarding antibiotic resistance in the future. There is also a distinct possibility that doctors will become increasingly interested in conditions such as Johne’s Disease. Of concern is the possible link between Johne’s and Crohn’s Disease, an intestinal inflammatory disorder that affects humans.

“It is issues such as this that may well dictate how farmers rear calves and other livestock in the future.”

Co Tyrone based vterinarian vet John Grant highlighted the pros and cons of including antibiotics at a low level in calf milk as a means of keeping disease at bay in rearing units.

“There are growing concerns about this practice leading to forms of antibiotic resistance,” he explained.

“The last thing the farming industry needs is the development of bacteria that are resistant to these drugs. My own view is that antibiotics should be used at a high enough level for a short period of time only, in order to combat any disease problems that may arise, rather than including them in milk powders as part of a standard management approach to calf rearing.”