CALF SCOURS

Calf scours or calf diarrhea causes more financial loss to cow-calf producers than any
other disease-related problem they encounter.  But calf scours is not a disease but a
symptom of a disease which can have many causes.  In diarrheas, there is a discharge of
more fluid than normal from the bowel, often more frequently than normal.  The discharge
can be white, yellow, grey or blood-stained, and is often foul-smelling.  Although more
common in hand-reared calves, it can also occur in calves which are being suckled by
their mothers.

Since a calf is approximately 70 percent water at birth, loss of body fluids through
diarrhea can produce rapid dehydration.  Dehydration and the loss of certain electrolytes
produce a change in body chemistry in the calf.  Although infectious agents may be the
cause of primary damage to the intestine, death from scours is usually due to loss of
electrolytes, changes in body chemistry, dehydration, and change in acid-base balance
rather than by invasion of an infectious agent.  The infectious agent that causes scours
can be a virus (BVD, Rotavirus, coronavirus), bacteria (E. coli,  salmonella,
Enterotoxemia) or protozoa (coccidiosis, cryptosporidium).

Treatment for scours is very similar regardless of the cause. It should be directed toward
correcting the dehydration, acidosis, and electrolyte loss. Antibiotic treatment can be
given simultaneously with the treatment for dehydration. Dehydration can be overcome
with simple fluids given by mouth early in the course of the disease. If dehydration is
allowed to continue, intravenous fluid treatment becomes necessary.  The age of the calf
when scours begins is an important consideration in its survival. The younger the calf, the
greater the chance of death.

Recent research has indicated that many scour cases can be directly related to lack of
colostrum intake by the newborn calf. A calf that is well mothered and consumes 1 to 2
quarts of colostrum in the first few hours after birth absorbs a higher level of antibodies
and is far less susceptible to scours and other calfhood diseases.