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Dairy Calf Scours

What is calf scours?

Calf scours is the common term for newborn calf diarrhea and is the leading cause of death in dairy calves. Calves experiencing diarrhea often develop dehydration and metabolic acidosis, as well as electrolyte and energy imbalances. In addition, this condition often contributes to poor growth and increased labor and costs.

Signs of calf scours

  • Watery stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weak suckling reflex
  • Dehydration (sunken eyes)
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Difficulty standing

Causes of calf scours

  • Scours is commonly caused by exposure to pathogens, including:
    • Bacteria such as E. coli or Salmonella
    • Viruses such as rotavirus or coronavirus
    • Protozoan parasites such as Cryptosporidia or coccidia

Stress can also play a significant role in allowing these organisms to affect calves. Therefore, it is imperative to manage your herd properly in order to minimize risk. For example, try to keep calving areas as clean as possible to reduce pathogen exposure. If possible, isolate sick calves and their dams from others in order to prevent the spread of pathogens.

Calf scours prevention

  • Provide sanitary calving facilities
  • Feed colostrum
  • House calves individually
  • Sanitize feeding equipment
  • Control vectors that can spread disease