The Sandhills calving system is a management program for dramatically reducing calf scours. The system reduces exposure to scours pathogens by moving pregnant cows to fresh calving pastures, and keeping cow-calf pairs in groups based on calving dates. University of Nebraska veterinarian David Smith provides these real-life examples from operations that have adopted the Sandhills calving system.

Case Herd 1: 800 to 900 cows

Before implementing Sandhills system:

  • Mortality rates due to scours from 1995 through 1999 ranged from 6.5 percent to 14 percent.
  • Veterinary expenses during the calving season averaged $3,114 per year from 1995 to 1999.

After implementing Sandhills system:

  • Mortality rates due to scours, 2000 through 2004, reduced to zero.
  • Four calves treated for scours in 2000, none since. 
  • Veterinary expenses during the first three calving seasons averaged $128.83 per year.
  • Owner estimates savings of $40,000 to $50,000 per year due to more weaned calves, improved calf performance and reduced expenses for treatment.

Case Herd 2: 300 to 400 cows

Before implementing Sandhills system:

  • Mortality rates, primarily due to scours were 6.5 percent in 1999 and 11.9 percent during 2000.

After implementing Sandhills system:

  • Total death losses over each four years were 2.3 percent, 1.5 percent, 1.5 percent and 2.8 percent.
  • Only one calf died from scours over four years.
  • The rancher estimates savings of $5,000 per year.

    For more information about this system and comprehensive scours prevention, see the feature article “Scour proofing” on page 26 of this issue.