Cure / Prevention

Calf scours – How hobby farmers can also get over it quickly.

Young calf with no symptoms of calf scours

A young healthy calf

Calf scours is not only a big problem for professional farmers. Hobby farmers, who only have a couple of calves, can have the same problems with calf scours. For them it is even more important to be able to recognize the early symptoms. I realized this when I came across this blog from Donna Allen Wood.

If you want to know what the early symptoms are, go to this page. Identifying the symptoms is already half the solution. The next step is not to wait too long, because the sooner you start to treat the disease, the better the chances are for the calf to recover quickly and completely.

What will help in curing the scours is knowing what caused it in the first place and, if possible, take away the causes. In the case of Donna’s calf it probably was a nutritional cause.  Reducing the milk intake by removing the calf from the dam (its mother) temporarily is an important first step.

Next thing is to look at the ration the dam is having. Has she moved to a new pasture with fresh grass or other quality? If so, the composition of the milk can also change. Abrupt changes are usually not beneficial for lactating calves.

Other causes can be determined by examining the manure more closely. How you can identify them, you can read in my article about recognizing calf diarrhea.  When bacteria are the cause, antibiotics are the best remedy, supplemented by pain or fever treatment. In the case of viruses or protozoa, antibiotics won’t help the calf. Then the only thing you can do is support the calf with pain and fever treatment plus rehydration in the form of electrolytes.

Providing electrolytes is a thing you always have to do to help the calf from dehydration.  Even when you think that it will pass by itself. Never underestimate how quickly a calf can get dehydrated! I can’t say this enough. I have made this mistake myself too many times. Remember, you can’t do anything wrong by giving a calf extra fluids in the form of electrolytes.

Adding components to the electrolytes, like pectin’s, will help soothing the intestine wall of the calf and thus preventing that the papillae will be damaged. The papillae are important for the ability to absorb nutritional components into the blood stream.

As you will probably know, prevention is always better than cure. Be aware what circumstances can cause calf scours. If you learn to identify them and take proper precautions, the chances of your calves getting scours can be reduced a lot. To learn more about calf scours, read this article I have written on this subject.

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3 Comments

  1. I have had three around 6 week old jersey cross claves go down with something that eventually kills them dispite my expert nurseing. This has happened over time. They won’t drink and get very down overnight and seem to be in pain. Some scours start it off. I feed bread so someone said it may be that so I have stopped feeding the young ones that. Have a young one now who went off yesterday so am taking her to the vet today.
    Any ideas….treatment has been penicillan and electrolytes but forced as they are not intereted in drinking. Any ideas would help. Thanks Rosemary

    • Dear Rosemary,

      It is not easy to tell what is wrong with your calves if you haven’t seen them. From what you describe it looks like your calves have severe problems and visiting a vet is in this case a good thing to do. If scours is a result of the problems antibiotics are only useful if bacteria are causing the problems or to prevent secundary infections.
      If your calves are down a painkiller can sometimes work better than antibiotics. The calf then feels itself better and its own recovery system has a better chance to do its healing work.Bear in mind that also something completely different might be the cause, like for instance food poisoning. However, most of the problems with young calves are related to scours and pneumonia. Pneumonia can be identified by a rapid and shallow breathing. Have you checked my articles on calf scours causes and calf treatment?

      I hope this might help you a bit.
      Good luck with curing your calves.

      Joost.

  2. Have you seen The Colostrum Management System-”ColoQuick”-meaning “Colostrum Quick”. You can have 4 Liters of colostrum thawed and ready to feeding temp. safely in 15min. or less to make it easier and faster to feed newborn calves. It is really amazing. It combines better colostrum handling from harvest-to-feeding of maternal colostrum and has an optional Pasteurizations process specifically designed for colostrum.
    Go to http://www.GoldenCalfCompany.com to see a short You-Tube video and more about calf care.

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