CALF SCOURS & Misconceptions

Misconception #1 Nutritional scours is a common problem in calves

A generation or two ago, nutritional scours was an issue, but today’s high quality/low cell count milk and calf powdered milks no longer carry scour causing organisms common in the past. Nutritional scours were diagnosed on the basis calves passing high amounts of manure. A calf consuming 0.8 kgs (6 lts x 13% solids) of milk solids daily will pass significant amounts of manure. Nutritional scours can occur through stress. Milk changes, environmental, transport, vaccination, weather, dehorning etc. However, these stress induced scours usually pass in a couple of days.

Misconception #2 Liquid manure is scours

As above, high milk intakes common today will produce liquid manure. Calves that are healthy, active and showing no signs of dehydration are unlikely to have scours.

Misconception #3 Electrolytes don’t work

There are electrolytes on the market that are very light-on in minerals and glucose. Perhaps veterinary advice is warranted here. Quality electrolytes are very effective in rehydration and mineral support when used correctly. They must be fed in between milk feedings as the water content is as important as the minerals.

Misconception #4 Type of scour can be identified by colour

Rotavirus, coronavirus and even increased milk can produce a white scour. Several bacterial strains can produce the same colour scour. Fecal culture is the only way to identify the type of scour.

Misconception #5 Scour type can be identified by calf age

It is true some diseases can occur based on days from birth (eg salmonella, e. coli etc). However, if the calf has a true scour, and not just high volume manure from a high plain of nutrition, then that can happen at any age.

Misconception #6 Reduce feed intake for sick calves

Many years ago the rule was ‘No milk while using electrolyte’. Most calves still died. Why? Starvation! Their energy requirement increases to support an energy-hungry immune system under challenge. Possibly, what had been said, was not to feed milk and electrolytes together.

Environmental hygiene goes without saying. There are a number of products on the market for disinfecting calf sheds. However, the most effective product we have witnessed is Vibrex. (Available from Roy Watson 0428 526 581 )

Ensuring calf nutrition is optimal, that is, timely administration of quality colostrum, that they are receiving adequate milk solids daily (fresh milk can vary – it pays to check – see Feb 20th article on refractometers), add to this CALFMAX containing essential minerals, vitamins, Bovatec, MOS, glucans and galactosamine, and disease and scours can largely be avoided.

John Lyne

Leave a Reply