County Agent Update

Calving Season Could Bring Scours


April 18, 2018 | View PDF

Calf diarrhea, more often referred to as “scours”, is a big topic with a basic problem; the loss of fluids and electrolytes from the calf. Most of these cases occur within the first 3 and 16 days of life. A variety of conditions may result from scours if steps are not taken to treat an animal, conditions such as; loss of fluids leading to low blood volume, electrolyte imbalance and acidosis, the animal essentially dies of shock. There are two forms of scours: those involving excess secretion of fluid and electrolytes from the intestine and those that have reduced absorption from the intestine into the body. The challenge is identifying and successfully treating a dehydrated animal early. Although it can be difficult to get close enough to the calf, there are some symptoms to be looking for; calves that have lost significant amount of fluid will have skin that will stay up for more than three seconds when you pull it away from the body, a dry mouth, cold ears and sunken eyeballs. One symptom that you can see without being hands on is if the animal is depressed, slow moving or has little interest in what is going on around them. Noninfectious causes of calf scours are best defined as flaws or gaps in management; inadequate nutrition, exposure to severe environment, insufficient attention to the newborn calf or a combination of these often are involved in scours outbreaks. Inadequate nutrition, energy and protein requirements of the pregnant dam, particularly during the third gestation can affect the quality and quantity of colostrum. Exposure to severe environments for the newborn calf- mud, overcrowding, contaminated lots, calving heifers and cows together, wintering and calving in the same area, storms, heavy snow, cold temperatures and rainfall are all stressful to the calf and increases its exposure to infectious agents. Great attention to the newborn calf is essential, especially during difficult births or adverse weather. Watch the calf to see if it is nursing and getting colostrum, the earlier the calf received the colostrum the better the body can absorb the nutrients. As the calf gets older, even 24 hours old, the body starts to lose its ability to absorb the antibodies from the mothers’ colostrum. If a scours problem develops, do not wait to send samples, contact your veterinarian about collecting appropriate samples. For beef cattle, natural suckling is preferred, but giving colostrum with a stomach tube ensures that the calf receives an adequate amount of good-quality colostrum. It is important to remember that homemade formulas are not a replacement for commercially balanced preparations and are for oral use only. It is also important to remember that many of the infectious agents that cause calf scours can cause disease in people as well so wearing gloves, washing your hands and using coveralls and boots that can be washed will keep yourself and other animals safe. Those with immune system disorders or pregnant women are more susceptible to zoonotic diseases and should not work with sick calves in any way. This article has information taken from NDSU Extension Service Publication, V-1630. To receive the article, please call the Williams County Extension Office at 701-577-4595.


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