Calf Scours

In a recent paper, Professor John Middleton, University of Missouri, stressed prompt treatment was of greater importance than cause of the scour. Calf scours in the first 30 days are caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses and parasites. The primary reason for calves becoming sick is dehydration. The agents causing the scour will be addressed by the calf’s immune system, however weak or strong that may be, the immune response will cause inflammation of the gut which in turn will cause the loss fluids and electrolytes.

The key to survival is addressing the dehydration. Hydrate and replace electrolytes with a commercial electrolyte product. Be diligent in mixing electrolytes following the manufacturer’s instructions. Too strong an electrolyte or weak solution will cause cell damage through either dehydration of cells or excessive rehydration. Both can cause cell death.

The invading bacteria, viruses or parasites are usually ingested from manure-oral contact. This can never be completely eliminated, but management of calving areas is a critical priority during calving. Calving pads, ‘springer paddocks’ both need to be as free as possible of manure and placental material to minimise potential contact with the calf’s mouth. Muddied teats from which a calf will attempt to gain immunity via colostrum can easily be nullified by pathogens on the dam’s teats. Even calves licking the dam’s flank or udder has the same potential. Abundant evidence of this pathogen risk is well documented in the research of the benefits of pasteurization of colostrum and fresh calf milk to eliminate degradation of colostrum and its passive transfer capacity.

Feeding areas of calving sites are always the high risk areas. In the case of calving pads, keeping this area clean will reduce the risk to our new born calf, but also reduce fresh cow mastitis infections. In ‘springer paddocks”, regular shifting of feeders also minimises the same two infection potentials.


Calfmax and TreatScour are available from our webshop.

John Lyne

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