There are three main steps in the initial treatment of scouring calves, according to Animal Health Ireland. These are:
1. Separate the scouring calf
Remove the calf from the group. This helps prevent spread of infection and gives the calf a better chance to recover. Scouring suckler calves and their dams should be separated from other calves and their mothers.
2. Give oral rehydration solutions
The single most important treatment is to replace the salts and fluids that are lost with scour. Healthy calves need up to four litres of fluid per day and scouring calves need an additional four litres to replace lost fluids.
Give one or two extra feeds (two litres each) of a good quality oral rehydration solution as soon as the calf starts scouring and while it is scouring.
These should be given independent of the milk feeds (for example, at lunchtime and, if the diarrhoea is severe, again late in the evening).
You can safely give these solutions by stomach tube if the calf refuses or is unable to drink.
3. Continue to feed milk
Continuing to feed with milk or good quality milk replacer does not cause, worsen or prolong scour.
The milk actually helps the healing of the intestine.
Continue to offer scouring calves normal amounts of milk or milk replacer as long as they want to drink. Do not feed diluted milk to calves. Leave suckler calves with their dams.
Milk or milk replacer should not be stomach-tubed. Milk given repeatedly by stomach tube will lead to the build-up of acids in the rumen and damage the ruminal wall.
Therefore, it is not recommended as a method for feeding of milk to calves that are not drinking due to ill health. Stomach tubing can, however, be used for feeding of electrolyte fluids quite safely.
An information leaflet covering all the aspects of preventing and treating calves with scour is available to download from the website www.animalhealthireland.ie.