Calf scours is caused by bacterial, viral and sometimes even by parasitic infections. Newborn dairy and beef animals are especially susceptible to calf scours because their immunity systems are not fully developed. Severe fluid loss due to calf scours results in dehydration and often leads to death. Unfortunately, even animals that survive calf scours often remain weak and perform poorly throughout their lives.
Calf scours is also called calf diarrhea, or neo-natal diarrhea. Many consider calf scours as not a specific disease with a specific cause, but actually as a clinical sign of a complex disease. Whatever the truth may be, Calf scours is the primary cause of death in calves from 2 to 30 days of age.
According to a leading research organization, the causative organisms of calf scours may be Coronavirus, Rotavirus, K99 E. coli bacteria or Clostridium perfringens Type C.
- Discharge of more fluid than normal from the bowel
- A discharge that is white, yellow, grey or blood-stained, or is foul-smelling
- Calves that do not nurse
- Calves that drool excessively
- Calves that look depressed and do not gain weight
How it Affects Cattle
Experts say that as a calf is approximately 70 percent water at birth, loss of body fluids through calf scours can produce fast dehydration. Dehydration and the loss of certain electrolytes produce a change in body of the calf. Calves die more due to dehydration than to the actual infection. Calf scours is one of the most important diseases of the beef cattle industry. Death losses of 50% or more can happen in severe episodes.
Due to the mystery behind the real cause of calf scours, it is not easy to pinpoint the locations or climate that favors the causative organisms. The disease usually draws attention only after a few calves have died.
Risks & Dangers
Although more common in hand-reared calves, calf scours can also occur in calves which are being suckled by their mothers.
Treatment for scours is through hydration, and replenishing the electrolyte loss. Antibiotic treatment should also be given simultaneously with the treatment for dehydration. Dehydration can easily be overcome with simple fluids given by mouth. Intravenous fluid treatment becomes necessary only when all the other types of treatment bear no result. The chances of recovery from calf scours are extremely low if the calf is very young.
Vaccines & Prevention
According to one source, research has indicated that many calf scour cases are related to lack of colostrum intake by the newborn calf. The more colostrum a calf takes, the greater are its chances to be protected from calf scours.
References and Resources
- Cattls FACS: Calf Scours Overview, General Principles - Saskatchewan Government
- Calf Scours - Novartis Animal Health
- Calf Scours, Causative Agents of Calfhood Diarrhea - Merricks
- Scours - MyCattle.com
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