In Ireland, cryptosporidium and rotavirus are the two most common causes of calf scour. Its very important to focus on hygiene and good quality colostrum feeding at the time of birth. Calf scour is the most common cause of death in calves less than 1 month old. It accounts for nearly 30% of deaths in calves.
To reduce calf scour
- Vaccination: Vaccinate all pregnant cattle 12 – 3 weeks prior to calving with the MSD Animal Health scour vaccine which provides protection against rotavirus, coronavirus and E.coli (K99).
- Colostrum feeding: Increase the resistance of the calf to infection by feeding 3 litres of Colostrum as soon as possible after birth (ideally within the first 2 hours).
- Housing: Ensure the calf has a clean dry pen, you should be able to kneel in the pen without getting your knees wet.
- Management: Handle calves from youngest to oldest, i.e. feed the youngest calves first before feeding to the older calves.
- Hygiene: Clean all feeding equipment after every milk feeding. Hot water will reduce the level of bacterial build up on the equipment. Dung out, power wash and disinfect pens between batches of calves to reduce the build up of bugs.
MSD Animal Health have a single 2ml scour vaccine that can be administered to pregnant cattle 12 – 3 weeks prior to calving. It is given into the muscle of the animal. The vaccine will stimulate the dam to produce antibodies which will provide protection against rotavirus, coronavirus and E.coli (K99). These antibodies will be stored in the dams colostrum. The dam will pass these antibodies to the calf via the colostrum at first milk feeding. That is why it is so important a calf receives colostrum as soon as possible after birth. Remember the 1.2.3 rule. In the 1st 2 hours, ensure the calf gets at least 3 litres of colostrum. Feeding the calf good quality colostrum will enhance the protection of the calf against these bugs.
When you have an outbreak of calf scour
- Separate: Isolate the sick calf or calves (remove from group pen).
- Rehydration: Diarrhoea causes losses of body fluids and minerals. Replacing lost fluids is the most important treatment. Feed good quality oral rehydration solution as soon as diarrhoea is detected.
- Feed Milk: Continue to provide scouring calves with normal amounts of milk or milk replacer as the source of nutrition and energy for the calf. Do not force the calf to drink milk if it is depressed or refuses to suckle.
- Warmth & Comfort: Ensure the calf is warm and dry by having clean, dry pens. Use a calf jacket or a heat lamp if necessary.
- Call the vet: Your vet will be able to investigate what infectious agents are contributing to the calves scour and will give you the best advice on the available measures of prevention and treatment.
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. It should be administered to the calves after milk feeding. 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.