Friday, 24 July 2020 08:09

Preventing scours

Written by  Staff Reporters
Calves with nutritional scours are often still bright. Calves with nutritional scours are often still bright.

The most common cause of scouring is nutritional scours, which happens when there is a change in diet or a diet that is inappropriate for the age group of calves.

Calves with nutritional scours are often still bright, and their faeces are not smelly or bloody. It can be prevented by ensuring dietary changes are slow and that feeds are suitable for that age of animal. Most nutritional scours resolve without specific treatment within a few days, but electrolytes can help prevent dehydration.

Scours can also be caused by viruses, bacteria, protozoa, or parasites. Infection occurs orally when calves are exploring a new environment. Many of these infectious organisms can be found at low levels in the faeces of healthy adult cows, which means calves will be exposed from birth –reinforcing the importance of good colostrum management.

Prevention of contagious scours requires good colostrum management, well designed calf sheds with freely draining bedding and meticulous hygiene with milk preparation and feeding equipment. It also requires a rapid response should a calf become sick.

Having a hospital pen, where sick calves can be isolated until they are let outside can be an effective component in preventing further spread of disease. Make sure to interact with the sick calves last and thoroughly disinfect equipment before using it with healthy calves. Testing of faecal material by your local vet can be a useful method to identify the cause of scours and appropriate animal health interventions to reduce further disease spread.

Vaccination of pregnant cows against common diarrhoea causing pathogens will boost antibody levels in their colostrum. However, this will only help if calves are getting their first feed of colostrum in a timely manner.

Calves suffering from scours lose fluids and salts, and don’t absorb the sugars they need for energy. This can cause alarming weight loss and dehydration. Therefore, lost fluids and salts must be replaced as soon possible to maintain calf energy.

A good quality oral electrolyte at therapeutic levels during the diarrhoea and recovery period is the most efficient way to ensure optimum calf health

Oral electrolytes are lower in energy than milk, so milk feeding should be continued during the scouring period

Calf rehydration

It’s important to feed both milk and electrolytes during rehydration. Ideally feed 2L of milk followed by 2L of electrolytes. These feeds should be 4 hours apart as the electrolytes can interfere with milk digestion.

Key points

• Use high-quality electrolytes to ensure a balanced intake of salts and energy

• Electrolytes can be offered via a teat feeder, trough, bucket or tube feeder

• Warm feeding (38°C) is recommended to increase voluntarily drinking

More like this

Strategy to reduce heifer mastitis

First calvers are more prone to mastitis than older cows. According to DairyNZ, farmers must choose a strategy that best suits their herd, farm team, and budget.


SIDE heading to Ashburton

For the first time in its 23-year history, the two-day South Island Dairy Event (SIDE) is heading to Ashburton.

Open days on feeding calves

A series of open days will run in the North Island this month on controlling feed intake of calves and…

Rankin gets board role

The 2019 Dairy Woman of the Year, Trish Rankin, is joining AGMARDT as an associate board member.

Machinery & Products

Major deal for AgriQuip

New Plymouth-based AgriQuip has been appointed as the exclusive importer and distributor of the Major Equipment brand, with the aim…

Giant stands tall on goat farm

A Dutch Giant is playing such an important role at Schuler Brothers' Te Aroha West goat farming operation that the…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Nestle's admission

OPINION: It is the biggest dairy company in the world but Nestle is under pressure after admitting that more than…

Milk is healthy

OPINION: Promoters of 'healthy' plant-based 'milk' take note! Regular consumption of cow milk is not associated with increased levels of…

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter