SDSU veterinarian talks calving season, diagnostics at Ag Expo

Kelda J.L. Pharris
kpharris@aberdeennews.com

One of South Dakota’s leading veterinarians spoke on calf loss, a new lab and coronavirus Tuesday at the first day of the Aberdeen Ag Expo.

“You guys have dealt with coronavirus for generations,” said Russ Daly to a handful of cattlemen and women.

Daly is the South Dakota State University Extension Veterinarian, a professor in the SDSU Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Department, and the state public health veterinarian for the South Dakota Department of Health.

Russ Daly, a veterinarian with South Dakota State University, upper right, talks about issues with calving season during a presentation to a small crowd Tuesday at the Aberdeen Ag Expo in the Holum Expo Building. American News photo by John Davis

The coronavirus is a family of viruses, some affecting cattle. The strain that affects cattle causes upper-respiratory issues. Daly spoke on the topic just to reaffirm that the coronaviruses that affect livestock and people are different and don’t pass from one species to the other.

Calving season will be underway in the next month or so for area farmers. Those few weeks leading up to calving can be a delicate time for cows.

“Cows in late gestation, their immune systems get weaker and are more susceptible” to viruses and disease, said Daly.

His work at the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at SDSU focuses on determining the cause and nature of animal diseases. The lab takes in specimens and sometimes whole animals in order to diagnose an illness. In general, more than half of the cases they study end up in the “unknown” category after diagnosis.

To better assist the lab, Daly offered some suggestions.

When a cow has miscarried, the placenta can be key in diagnosing and issue.

“A lot of unknown comes when the placenta is not sent in,” said Daly.

When a placenta is infected with an illness, it becomes starved of oxygen and begins dying, causing a miscarriage in the animal. If only the fetus is sent in, then the veterinarians are only left with a partial clue because sometimes the fetus itself has not been infected.

Also, in the case of scours, a serious digestive issue in calves, the answers are not always found in fecal samples. The carcass of the calf will give a larger picture because the lab is then able to examine the entire digestive system of the animal, leading to a more comprehensive diagnosis.

In the case of bacterial infections, Daly had some insight.

“Sporadic, every day bacterial cases tend to come from feeding on the ground,” he said.

Also, bacterial infections can be tricky because it’s not necessarily the bacteria itself that causes an illness. It’s the toxins that bacteria produce in the animal that can impact its health.

Regardless of the illness, dehydration is an across-the-board symptom of most illnesses affecting cattle, said Daly. Keeping calves hydrated and well-fed by their mothers, capitalizing on their immunity through their milk, helps keep calves’ immune systems strong.

Daly started off his presentation with the new addition to the SDSU laboratory. One perk with the new additions is that they developed a drive-through window system for people to drop specimens off. He said it’s a great service for those in highly regulated livestock operations who try to avoid any possible contamination from another livestock operation, even if it’s only sharing the same footpath in a parking lot.

When it comes to the transfer of diseases, cleanliness is key for both humans and livestock.

Vendor displays fill the Holum Expo Building at the Aberdeen Ag Expo Tuesday. The event continues though Thursday. American News photo by John Davis taken 3/3/2020

The Aberdeen Ag Expo continues today from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Holum Expo Building. For a full schedule to go bit.ly/3aqWTcW.

Russ Daly, a veterinarian with South Dakota State University, talks about issues with calving season during a presentation Tuesday at the Aberdeen Ag Expo at the Holum Expo Building. American News photo by John Davis
Farm equipment sits on display outside the Holum Expo Building at the Aberdeen Ag Expo Tuesday. The event continues though Thursday. American News photo by John Davis taken 3/3/2020
Russ Daly, a veterinarian with South Dakota State University, talks about issues with calving season during a presentation Tuesday at the Aberdeen Ag Expo at the Holum Expo Building. American News photo by John Davis taken 3/3/2020
Vendor displays fill the Holum Expo Building at the Aberdeen Ag Expo Tuesday. The event continues though Thursday. American News photo by John Davis taken 3/3/2020
Vendor displays fill the Holum Expo Building at the Aberdeen Ag Expo Tuesday. The event continued through Thursday. American News photo by John Davis