Farm Ireland

Friday 15 December 2017

Battling calf scours this spring

The lengthening days are finally upon us and another spring calving season is underway.

And with that comes the problem of scouring calves, a frustratingly common disease experienced on most cattle farms in Ireland and around the world.

Not only does calf scour have a major impact on the viability of farm operations, due to direct costs of treatment and calf losses and the long-term effects on performance, it also accounts for additional workload and frustration for those caring for the calves on the farm.

Whether a calf does or does not develop scour depends on the balance between its resistance to infection and the level of infection to which it is exposed.

It is therefore essential to ensure that calves receive sufficient, good quality colostrum as soon as possible after birth and adequate nutrition throughout the first weeks of life.

Calving cows in a clean environment and keeping calves in comfortable, dry, clean pens will significantly reduce the level of infection and the risk of scour.

The infections that pose the most threat to calves are ubiquitous. However, despite our best efforts to prevent this sometimes devastating disease, completely eliminating it from our farms is impossible.

A quick response is crucial to minimise the impact of scour when it hits a calf. It is important to know that antibiotics will not help most cases of diarrhoea as viral and/or parasitic infectious agents are most commonly involved.

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If possible, remove the sick calf from the group as this will help prevent the spread of infection. It will also allow safe and regular monitoring and gives the calf a better chance to recover. Scouring suckler calves should be separated from the group along with their mother.

Giving oral rehydration solutions (ORS) such as Effydral is the single most important step in treating a scouring calf as this will replace the fluids and salts that are lost with the diarrhoea. Effydral solution does not only rapidly correct dehydration (fluid loss) and electrolyte (salt) losses but also reverses the acidosis caused by scours.

Effydral solution can be given by stomach tube if the calf will not drink it. In addition to giving Effydral, continue to allow and encourage the calf to drink milk or milk replacer as long as it wants to drink.

Milk feeding does not worsen or prolong the course of diarrhoea; in contrast, it provides energy and nutrients that are essential for the recovery of the calf’s gut.

Milk or milk replacer should however not be stomach-tubed. If a calf refuses to drink several feeds in one day, has sunken eyes, is very weak or unable to stand or has a temperature less than 38.5°C or more than 39.5°C it requires veterinary attention and possibly intravenous fluids.

Effydral feeding regime for a scouring calf:

1. Add 2 dissolvable Effydral tablets to 2L of lukewarm water. It’s really that simple!

2. Feed 2L of Effydral solution twice daily for two days, independent of the milk feeds.

3. Offer milk at least 2 hours after receiving Effydral.

4. Effydral solution can be stomach-tubed if the calf is unable or unwilling to drink.


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