How do calves pick up bacterial infections? Flies, insects, birds, and vermin commonly spread E. coli from animal to animal and can be spread from calf to calf via direct contact. Fecal-oral contact is the means of infection. Maintaining high-level sanitation in the calf environment is critical to minimizing calf exposure to pathogens. Start by developing an equipment sanitation protocol for all feeding equipment, including the colostrum harvesting. Provide disposable gloves for all calf workers.
The most important take-home message is to detect the scouring calf before fluid loss becomes severe so oral replacement of fluids is still effective. It is important to replace lost body fluids in large enough quantity and often enough so that losses do not become profound.
Three times daily feeding of warm electrolytes mixed according to label instructions as well as intravenous or subcutaneous infusion of lactated ringer’s solution both are excellent strategies to minimize the impact of dehydration caused by scours. Try delivering electrolytes via a nipple bottle or esophageal tube if calves refuse to drink from a pail. The most common mistakes are to give too little supplemental fluid in a timely manner and discontinuing feeding milk. One of the signs that enough fluids are being replaced is that normal volume of urination resumes.
Prevention of calf scours starts with timely feeding adequate amounts of clean colostrum, consistently mixing milk replacer at 12.5 to 15% total solids, maintaining good equipment hygiene, and rapidly identifying and rehydrating calves that develop scours.
For more helpful calf-management information from Vita Plus, visit Vita Plus Starting Strong Calf Care E-news - February 2014.
Source: Vita-Plus Starting Strong newsletter