Calf scour is the most common cause of death in calves. It accounts for nearly 30% of deaths in calves less than 1 month old.
To reduce calf scour
- Colostrum – Increase the resistance of the calf to infection by feeding 3 litres of biestings as soon as possible after birth (ideally within 2 hours)
- Clean dry calf pens, you should be able to kneel in calf pens without getting knees wet
- Handle calves youngest – oldest
- Clean feeding equipment
- Disinfect pens between batches of calves
When you have an outbreak of calf scour
- Isolate sick calf (remove from group pen)
- Rehydration is the most important treatment- you must replace lost fluids
- Ensure calf is warm (put under lamp if chilled)
- Take a sample to find out what’s causing the calf scour so you can treat as appropriate
In Ireland cryptosporidium and rotavirus are the two most common causes of calf scour. Its very important to focus on hygiene and making sure the calf gets enough colostrum.
You can increase the quality of the colostrum by vaccinating the cows with a scour vaccine before calving. This ensures that the cow produces more antibodies to rotavirus, corona virus and ecoli. The vaccinated cow will store these antibodies in her colostrum. Feeding the calf enough colostrum will enhance the protection of the calf against these bugs.
One of the main causes of scour in calves less than 2 weeks of age is a parasite called Cryptosporidium parvum; resulting in acute scour and abdominal pain. There is a licensed product which can prevent diarrhoea associated with cryptosporidiosis and must be administered orally for 7 days from 1-2 days of age. This should be used on all calves subsequently born after a diagnosis of cryptosporidiosis has been made. Other supportive therapies including adequate nutrition, warmth and exclusion of draughts all help to maintain calf health.