There are four main causes of scours in young calves; those are E. coli K99, Corona Virus, Rota Virus and Cryptosporidium parvum.
The pathogen E. coli K99 will cause scours a few days after birth, while the other three typically will not develop until 1 to 3 weeks of age.
Calves that have yellow or white diarrhea combined with depressed behavior, weak appetite and dehydration are the calves you really need to focus your attention on. In only a couple days after the initial signs of infection, death can occur.
Even though most of the organisms that cause scours are viruses, there are still essential treatment options that can aid calf survival after the onset of the infection.
While the calf is scouring, it is losing nutrients and water. It is crucial to correct this imbalance.
This can be done by feeding the calf an electrolyte supplement, and it may be necessary to tube the calf if it cannot nurse.
If it is to the point where it can no longer suckle, then it has become very acidotic (high pH blood level) and will need IV fluids.
There are many products available. Consult with your veterinarian and supplier to determine what would be the best product. It is important to follow all label instructions for mixing.
Something else that may be helpful would be to move the cow and calf to a dry area, such as a barn.
So what can you do to prevent scours in your herd?
Many vaccination programs are available to minimize scour outbreaks in your young calves. The two main vaccination programs are to either vaccinate your cows prior to calving or vaccinate calves once they are born.
Vaccinating cows prior to calving
There are several products available to vaccinate cows prior to calving. Many of these products combine protection against the scour-causing organisms.
The way these products work is to vaccinate your cows so the antibodies are transmitted to the calf through the colostrum.
If you select this as your vaccination option, it is crucial that the calf is observed consuming colostrum within the first few hours after birth.
Many of the available products also require a booster. Be sure to discuss with your veterinarian the best option and follow the label for instructions.
Vaccinating calves soon after birth
This vaccination program has fewer products available with combined immune protection. It is important to know what the products actually treat. Discuss with your veterinarian to see what products work best for your operation.
In this program, you are depending on the calf to absorb the vaccine through its intestinal wall, the same way colostrum is absorbed across the wall, thus it is important they are treated soon after birth for the most effective protection.
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