Scour in Newborn Calves
Published: 14/03/24


What is Calf Scour?

Scour is one of the most common health problems that affects young cattle and is a leading cause of early calf death. In simple terms, scour is the term used in the farming industry for diarrhoea. Calves are most vulnerable in the first couple of weeks after they are born. It is alarming to note that almost 40% of calf fatalities in those first vulnerable weeks are scour related. But it is largely preventable and treatable. Thankfully, here at McCabe Feeds we have the expertise and a full range of products to help you prevent and treat scour on your farm.


What Causes Scour?

There are a number of reasons why your calf may contract a scour.  Scours are classified as infectious and nutritional scours. The different origins that cause scour in calves are:

  • Parasites - including Cryptosporidiosis and Coccidiosis

  • Viruses - most common being Rotavirus and Coronavirus

  • Bacteria – e.g., Salmonella and E. coli

  • Nutritional - Poor nutrition can lead to scour in calves as they may not be receiving adequate antibodies to fight off the above.

Early Detection and Symptoms

Early detection of scour is key to preventing fatalities and the spread of scour to the rest of the herd. Getting in there early with the right treatments can make all the difference to a young calf surviving scour. Knowing the symptoms of scour is crucial for all farmers. Some symptoms to be vigilant for include, but not limited to are:

  • Faeces - Brighter, watery stools

  • Energy Levels - Weak Calves with little desire to feed

  • Dehydration - Calves maybe listless with sunken eyes, a staggered walk and general weakness

Treatment for Scour in Calves

The most important step once you identify that a calf has scour, is to isolate and treat the calf. It is important to separate the sick calf to ensure it does not spread throughout your herd of cattle. Rehydration therapy is essential to prevent further deterioration of the young animal. Dehydration is lethal for calves who develop scour. Rehydration therapy is the fast introduction of electrolytes into the diet. A simple solution like Sacrolyte or Osmofit can act quickly in reversing the process of dehydration and is literally a lifesaving addition to any farm's medical box. It is important to always follow the manufacturer's guidelines with whatever electrolyte you choose as feeding an electrolyte that is too concentrated can also result in more scours. 

As scour is caused by various factors, Antibiotics are not commonly used as these are reserved for the treatment of scour in cases that are caused by bacteria. If you have any concerns, the most important step is to prevent dehydration and you should contact your vet for more information. 



Prevention Tips

There are many different aspects to preventing and managing scour within your herd. Although there is no definitive way to prevent scour, there are a number of key steps to reduce the risk of scour:

  1. The Cow

By ensuring the cow is healthy on the run up to calving, you increase the chances of a healthy calf. It is important to ensure the pregnant cow receives good nutrition and the correct vaccines. This allows for adequate colostrum which will be fed to the calf in the first few hours after birth. If vaccines are given at the correct time, it will influence which antibodies the cow puts into her colostrum and as a result will be passed onto the calf. Survivor is an easy to mix colostrum for calves and lambs. Survivor provides the energy and stimulus for the newborn animal to suckle naturally on the mother. It is essential that Survivor is fed to the newborn animal within 4 hours of birth and if necessary, repeat 4 hours later.

  1. Nutrition

When a newborn calf receives an adequate amount of good quality Colostrum in the first few hours of their lives, it gives the calf numerous antibodies and strengthens them to fight against infection and diseases. Following on from the colostrum, it is important to see they are receiving adequate nutrition on a regular basis. Try and ensure that feeds are consistent and pay particular attention to the timing and the temperature of the feeds.

  1. Clean Environment

Reduce the exposure to pathogens and infections by keeping the calving pen clean and dry. By using cubicle lime and clean fresh hay in the calving pen you will reduce the risk of exposure to disease and viruses for the newborn calves. 

As scour cannot be completely prevented, it’s important to have all the essentials at hand. Here at McCabe Feeds, we have you covered as we stock a full range of products that will see that you are set up for the calving season. Everything from cubicle lime; to ensure you have a clean calving pen, to colostrum and milk replacer, for rehydration and ensuring your calf is well fed, to the lifesaving electrolytes, salts and fluids, which will rehydrate your calves quickly in the event they develop scour. 

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our team will be happy to assist you.

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