If there’s one thing ranchers don’t like to see, it’s scours in their newborn calves. Characterized by watery diarrhea, scours isn’t a disease in and of itself, but rather a symptom associated with several different diseases or other factors. No matter the cause though, scours prevents the absorption of fluids from the intestines, causing rapid dehydration. Due to a combination of dehydration, acidosis, and loss of electrolytes, it’s one of the leading causes of death in calves.
Causes of Scours
There are two main categories associated with the development of scours: A.) noninfectious causes and B.) infectious causes. Identifying the category for your calf will be important for possible prevention in the rest of your herd.
Non-infectious causes are usually related to poor nutrition in the cow, especially during the final months of gestation. Cows lacking in nutrition may also produce poorer quality colostrum, which in turn, can lead to scours in their calves. Other non-infectious causes include muddy, unsanitary, or crowded environmental conditions or extreme weather.
Infectious causes of scours include bacterial agents such as Escherichia Coli, Salmonella spp. and Clostridium perfringens; viruses such as Rotavirus, Coronavirus, BVD virus, or IBR virus; protozoal parasites like Cryptosporidium Coccidia; or yeasts and molds.
Regardless of the cause, scours can be treated similarly in all calves and the primary focus should address dehydration, acidosis, and electrolyte loss. Fluids are typically given by mouth and your veterinarian can be consulted regarding administration of electrolytes. Since most dehydrated calves also experience hypothermia, they will often need an external heat source such as heat lamps or they may need to be moved to a warm barn.
One of the most common mistakes ranchers make is waiting too long to give oral electrolytes or not giving them often enough to calves affected by scours. If
administered early enough and on a frequent basis, fluids can help the calf to maintain strength and continue nursing.
In addition to giving electrolytes, you can also supplement with ScoursGuard for Calves which contains beneficial probiotics to address acidosis. A completely safe and natural compound, this product has proven to stop scours in its tracks. To administer ScoursGuard, use 1 quart of warm water or milk heated to 98 degrees Fahrenheit and 2 tablespoons of clean white sugar (if using milk, leave out the sugar). Add 2 tablespoons of ScoursGuard and mix thoroughly. Feed to calves in a bottle or for older calves, in a bucket. Since this product has no taste or odor, they won’t balk at drinking or eating it. ScoursGuard can also be fed free choice to your calves, as they seem to know what’s good for them.
With scours, quick attention and treatment may mean the difference between life and death, especially with newborn calves, so it’s crucial to intervene as quickly as possible. With proper treatment, many calves can and do make a full recovery.