Ways to minimize calf scours outbreak

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Source: Boehringer Ingelheim

Calf scours, or neonatal calf diarrhea, is a common source of sickness and death in calves under a month of age. Affected calves can fall behind in performance and never catch up, so early intervention, correction of dehydration and prevention are paramount.

Common causes

  • Viruses: rotavirus, coronavirus, bovine viral diarrhea virus
  • Parasites: Cryptosporidium and coccidia
  • Bacteria: Escherichia coliSalmonellaClostridium perfringens
  • Other: Ingestion of more milk than calf can digest

Clinical signs

  • Watery stools may be green, brown, yellow or gray, +/- blood and mucus
  • Weakness and depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration

Diagnosis

  • Work with your veterinarian to identify the cause, so proper treatment can be initiated
  • Analysis of fresh fecal samples and necropsies of dead calves can help determine the cause

Treatment

  • Isolate sick calves and their dams
  • Replace fluid and electrolytes with oral treatments or intravenous fluids
  • Your veterinarian may recommend nutritional support
  • Provide warmth with deep bedding; shelter calves from wind, rain and snow
  • Depending on the cause, your veterinarian may recommend medications such as antibiotics

Prevention

  • Ensure newborns receive adequate colostrum
  • Immunize the cow herd against enteric pathogens to help build calf immunity
  • Keep environment clean and free of fecal matter that can carry pathogens
  • Avoid overcrowding and minimize stress
  • Segregate calves by age to avoid exposure to pathogens from older cattle

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