Calf scours: they’re common and costly, but, fortunately, also preventable and treatable. Noah Litherland, assistant professor of dairy cattle nutrition, research and Extension at the University of Minnesota, offers the following top tips for battling scours in a 2010 Extension publication:

  • Colostrum feeding and management is key. Feed adequate amounts (10 percent of calf body weight) of heat treated (140 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes) colostrum within the first 24 hours after birth.
  • After providing adequate colostrum on day 1, consider feeding a second dose after the first 24 hours (especially useful in stressed calves).
  • It is important to meet the calf's requirements for nutrients; however, slowly bringing calves onto milk replacer may help reduce the risk of digestive upset in stressed calves.
  • During the first 14 days, calves should be observed at least 3 times daily for disposition, fecal score and consumption of milk replacer.
  • Act quickly at the first sign of scours. Litherland’s protocol includes dosing electrolytes and stool corrective solution, injection of antibiotics, intravenous injection of sterile saline or sterile sodium bicarbonate in severe cases of dehydration, and recording of all treatments and communication with staff using paint-chalk, dry-erase boards and electronic records.
  • Consider using feed additives in milk replacer to promote gut health.
  • All calves require clean and dry bedding, freedom from thermal stress and parasites, and good quality air.
  • Work with your veterinarian and nutritionist to develop protocols for treating calf scours, ensure all employees understand the protocols and that protocols are posted and updated regularly and that employees are adequately trained to carry out protocols.
  • Ensure that all feeding equipment is properly sanitized and in good working order.
  • Double-check milk replacer mixing recipes, use measures of total solids at the beginning and end of chores to evaluate consistency of mixing, provide a thermometer and guidelines to ensure that milk is being mixed and fed at the correct temperature.

Read Litherland’s article.