Scours in calves is a serious and complex disease. It is caused by a variety of infectious agents and other conditions. Any disease that attacks the calf in the three weeks of birth will lead to some level of scours (Diarrhea). This happens because the gut of the calf is still developing so it is weak. Absorption of fluids in the intestines is altered which leads to life threatening imbalances. When the calf gets scours it losses fluids and rapidly dehydrates. Treating scours early rapidly increases your calf's ability to recover.

Causes of Scours?

-Scours is caused by two main categories:

   -Noninfectious causes are usually caused by gaps or mistakes in management practices.

      -Inadequate nutrition of pregnant dam

        -Usually in the last third of gestation.

        -Nutrition of dam determines the quality of colostrum the calf will get.

      -Exposure to environment

        -If the calf is born into a dirty environment it can lead to diseases causing scours.

        -This causes stress in the new born calves.

        -Insufficient attention to the newborn calves

        -During difficult births it puts extra stress on the calf right away

        -Not making sure the calf gets adequate amounts of quality colostrum.

     -Combination of all these

  -Infectious causes have 4 main categories:


      -Escherichia coli.

         -Most important cause of bacterial scours in calves

         -Most calves are exposed to E.coli in the environment when they are born

         -Manure can carry the E. coli and give to calves as young as 16-24 hours of age.

      -Salmonella spp.

        -Produces a potent toxin or endotoxin

        -Antibiotic treatment damages the salmonella and causes it to release the endotoxin

        -The endotoxin will poison the animal and will result in shock and illness

        -Need treatment to counteract the endotoxic shock

        -Calves affected at 6 days of age or older

        -More common in young and already sick calves

      -Clostridum perfringens

        -Commonly known as enterotoxemia

        -Enterotoxemia is fatal that is caused by toxins that are being released

        -Sudden onset and calves become listless and strain or kick at their abdomen

        -Sometimes they have bloody diarrhea

        -Associated with changing weather, changes in feed or feeding, or management practices

        -Calves may die without any symptoms ever showing

      -Other bacteria


      -Coronavirus and Rotavirus

        -Disrupt the cells that line the small intestine causing diarrhea and dehydration

        -Coronavirus also damages the intestinal crypts. Intestinal crypts produce new intestinal cells. Damage to the crypts 

          slows the healing process of the lining.

        -Damage caused also leads to secondary bacterial infections

        -Calves 1-2 days old can be affected but usually happens when they are a week and up.

        -If not treated right away can lead to death

      -BVD virus

        -Can cause diarrhea and death in young calves

        -Diarrhea occurs around 24 hours to three days after exposure

        -Can last for days or weeks if the animal survives that long

        -Erosions and ulcers on the tongue, lips and in the mouth are commonly found

      -IBR virus

        -Causes digestive disorders in young calves

        -Causes erosions and ulcers in the esohagus, dullness, loss of weight, scours, and death.



             -Attaches to the lining of the small intestine and damage the mirovilli.

             -Control by good hygiene and sanitation


             -Very serious disease in weaned calves but not usually a problem in young calves.

             -Outbreaks in calves 3-4 weeks and up have been reported.

             -Associated with stress, poor sanitation, overcrowding, or sudden changes in feed.

             -Some calves show symptoms of brain damage

             -Bloody scours are common

     -Yeasts and Molds

         -Cause lesions in the stomach and intestines of calves with scours.

         -Said that they don't cause the scours but that they are a secondary invaders.

         -Seen when calves with scours have been on a overuse of antibiotics.

Prevention of Scours?

-Management practices


-Environment and sanitation

-Attention to newborns

-Vaccinations programs

Treatment for Scours in calves?

-All treatments are very similar for all types of scours

-Treatments should be aimed toward correction of dehydration, acidosis, and electrolyte loss.

-Antibiotic treatments can be used along with treatment for dehydration

-IV fluids can be given for dehydration

-Oral fluids of electrolytes can be used for dehydration also

Scours in calves can be very deadly if not treated right away. When calves come down with scours they dehydrate very rapidly. Giving oral electrolytes and giving IV fluids is a great way to rehydrate them. Try giving some of these electrolyte supplements to your calves the next time your calves have scours.

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