Shorten the Duration of Winter Dysentery

Written by: Matt Honsey

A viral outbreak of diarrhea in dairy herds commonly known as winter dysentery affects a number of herds in the Midwest during our transition from winter to spring.  The animal becomes susceptible to pathogens that damage the hindgut, causing dehydration, a drop of feed intake/milk production, and result in significant economic losses.  I've experienced this first hand over the past several weeks with some of the herds I work with.  In all cases, the symptoms of dysentery popped up very quickly. For example I spoke with one particular dairy on a Wednesday and everything was going well.  By Friday morning, milk pounds were significantly down and so were intakes!  In my experience, it's a 5-7 day duration of milk and intake loss, followed by 5-7 days of a rebound back to where the herd was before the viral diarrhea started.

At the start/onset of dysentery symptoms, some tips that may help shorten the duration of the outbreak and get your herd back to feeling and performing like they should are: 

1.  Respond as quickly as you can when you see symptoms of winter dysentery (diarrhea, milk coughing, nasal discharge, dehydration, decreased feed intake). 

2.  Ensure plenty water is available (clean and fresh).

3.  Increase effective fiber in the diet (wheat straw or grass hay).

4.  Consider using Hydro-Lac® Bovine Hydration Pellets at a rate of 0.35 to 0.50 pounds per cow until symptoms lessen.

5.  Increase Stealth 5 from 1oz feed rate to 2oz feed rate per head until cows are back to normal on intakes. Stealth 5 provides a food source for good bacteria, selenium yeast, natural glucosamine, and MOS. This combination enhances rumen function, interferes with pathogens binding to host tissue, feeds beneficial bacteria in the lower intestinal tract and improves overall immune function and health.

6.  Use a direct-fed microbial such as Sci-Mic 40-20 or Dairy Scope during and after outbreak.

7.  Contact your Form-A-Feed representative to help you control winter dysentery on your dairy.