Infectious causes of calf diarrhea (scours) and efficacy of current vaccination strategies to prevent scours in beef calves in western Canada (phase 1)

Project Details

Status: Completed
Investment: $183,138
Commodity: Beef Cattle
Organization: University of Calgary
Investigator: Frank van der Meer

Neonatal Calf Diarrhea (NCD) or Scours is one of the leading causes of calf mortality.

Why is this research important for Alberta ag?

Neonatal Calf Diarrhea (NCD) or Scours is one of the leading causes of calf mortality, although in the last decades hardly any research has evaluated the various pathogens involved in scours, and no large-scale field studies on the efficacy of intervention strategies (i.e. vaccines) were published.

Since the development of vaccines for scours many years have passed, therefore is is timely to evaluate the virus and bacterial strains that are circulating and assess the role of eimeria spp. or cryptosporidiosis in the pathogenesis of scours in younger and older calves.

This project aims to detect and characterize the strains and species of pathogens commonly associated with NCD in western Canada, whereby these pathogens are fully characterized and compared to the currently used vaccine strains. Additionally, the microbiome of NCD calves will be compared to their age matched controls to understand what short- and long-term microbial changes in gastro-intestinal tract. This project aims to detect and assess the relevance of other, potential pathogenic, microbial agents presents in the feces of these calves.

What benefits can producers expect from this research?

Phase one of this project will focus on the characterization of the scours pathogens. The entire three-phase project will not only identify the pathogens, but also evaluate intervention and prevention strategies (vaccination, management) needed to significantly reduce the scours-related losses.

By monitoring the relevant pathogens, understanding the efficacy of various vaccine strategies, knowing the strains of viruses and bacteria involved, is essential for both veterinarians and producers to develop strategic effective management practices. This will limit the impact of scours in cow calf herds, which is a significant financial burden for producers.

How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?

Knowledge will be shared through participation in producer and veterinarian-focused events, conferences for scientific audiences, article publications, UCVM's beef outreach activities, scientific journal publications, and various other outreach activities.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.