by Caitlyn Andrews
September 08, 2016
Calf scours is a common problem for producers, and can be fatal if not caught and treated in time. Calf scours can be a leading cause of financial loss to cow and calf producers. It is not a single disease, but a clinical sign associated with several diseases. Scours can be characterized by diarrhea that often leads to dehydration and even death.
We will discuss the symptoms, causes, prevention and treatment of calf scours in this post.
Common signs of calf scours include:
Depending on the severity of the case and the cause of the scours, a calf may survive untreated for as little as 1 day or as long as 2 weeks. We'll discuss the different causes of calf scours in the next section.
What causes scours in calves? There are multiple causes of scours that can be broken into 2 categories: 1) non-infectious and 2) infectious.
Non-infectious causes of scours: These are usually referred to as predisposing or contributing factors. Efforts to prevent infectious scours are usually ineffective if contributing noninfectious factors are not considered in a prevention program. Noninfectious causes are typically gaps in herd management, such as inadequate nutrition of the pregnant dam, lack of attention or inadequate environment for the newborn calf.
Infectious causes of scours:
Note: Some bacterial and protozoal pathogens are transmissible from cattle to humans. Hygiene and sanitation must be practiced when handling calves with scours.
Most often, infectious scours are caused by either rotavirus, coronavirus or Cryptosporidium.
Scours results from a combination of noninfectious and infectious factors. It is critical that you use more than one method to control the problem. Your prevention efforts should complement each other. Keep in mind that prevention should occur year-round, not just during the calving season.
To prevent calf scours, it is important that you implement a prevention program that addresses all sources of calf scours, not just one cause.
Proper nutrition can help prevent calf scours. Noninfectious causes of scours are sometimes the result of inadequate nutrition of the pregnant dam. It is critical that cows maintain adequate protein, energy, and micronutrient nutrition during gestation. Poor nutrition can lead to poor quality and quantity of colostrum produced by the dam. Read more about the importance of colostrum in combating scours in this post by the Cattle Network.Be sure that all newborn calves receive colostrum. Calves should nurse or be given 2 quarts of
Be sure that all newborn calves receive colostrum. Calves should nurse or be given 2 quarts of colostrum during the first 2 to 4 hours of life. A repeat feeding of the 2 quarts should be given 4 to 6 hours after. Antibodies in extra colostrum and transition milk can aid calves in overcoming viral infections. For more details on feeding colostrum to aid in the treatment of scours, see this article by the Dairy Herd Management.
Environment and Sanitation
Calves need a clean, dry environment to protect them from scours. Always maintain a clean calving area. Sanitation is just as important as the environment. Many farms clean and sanitize their pens and hutches, but often overlook the cattle panels used to restrain calves and bucket holders. These spots can be missed when cleaning. Power washing calf facilities is a great way to clean them up, but an important often missed step, is a final rinse. A final rinse or hand scrub can help rid the surfaces of feces that could contain Cryptosporidium. Overcrowding is also known to be a major contributor to calf scours. Keep this in mind for your calves' environment.
Vaccination of the dam is an important preventative for scours. Immunize against scours-causing pathogens. While vaccination alone often isn’t enough to prevent scours, it can aid in your prevention program. Have your vet help you develop an annual vaccination program suited to your herd.
Optimal prevention of calf scours requires a mix of sound genetic selection, pasture management, nutrition, sanitation, and immunization.
First, you should consult with your veterinarian if you have a calf or calves that are scouring. Your vet can help you determine the cause of the scours and help you decide on an appropriate course of action.
When possible, isolate scouring calves and their dams from the rest of the herd. Regardless of the cause of scours, most treatment methods are similar. The primary concern should be correcting dehydration, acidosis and electrolyte loss. Antibiotic treatment for scours can be given with the treatment for dehydration. In the early stages of scours, simple fluids given by mouth can overcome dehydration. Fluid therapy can be administered orally or intravenously. Oral fluids used early in the scouring process are typically successful. Keep in mind that a 12% loss of fluids in calves usually will result in death.
Many dehydrated calves will suffer from hypothermia. Provide an external source of heat, such as a warm barn or heat lamps, to calves with hypothermia during electrolyte or fluid treatment.
The most important thing for treating calves with scours is to act fast. Scours is a preventable and treatable condition. Ignoring the noninfectious causes of scours can lead to infectious causes of calf scours. Left untreated, you risk losing the calf. Implement preventative measures, pay attention to newborn calves, and act quickly if they exhibit signs of scours.
Dairy Herd: Scours Trifecta
Cattle Network: Calf Scours Causes, Prevention, and Treatment
VetMed: Calf Scours Course
Veterinary Extension Colorado State: Calf Scours PDF
NDSU: Calf Scours Causes, Prevention, Treatment
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by Caitlyn Andrews
July 11, 2021
by Caitlyn Andrews
November 12, 2019
Fall is here and that means it's time for pumpkin-everything. 🎃
But what do you do with your pumpkins once the season is over? If you throw them out your pets could be missing out on a tasty snack.
For livestock, pumpkins can even stand in as an additional feed source.
by Caitlyn Andrews
July 16, 2019
Mosquito season is here. We've had a wet spring and mosquitoes are thriving. And these pests are more than annoying.
They're a threat to farms everywhere. They carry disease. They annoy animals. They even affect your livestock operation's bottom line.
In this article, you'll learn about mosquitoes, the harm they cause, and ways to control them on your farm.