Scours Prevention

Prevention of scours is essential! (12)

- those animals that are at highest risk and should be the focus of prevention are: young calves (less than   3 weeks of age), calves from heifers and calves with failure of passive transfer (12)   

new calf (23)

6 main points:

1) Minimize the contact with potential sources of infection
Miminize dystocias: calves that are born after a long, complicated parturition often do not get up and suckle immediately, resulting in failure of passive transfer
3) Maximize colostrum intake, calf welfare and nutrition

4) Prevent introduction of new calf scour pathogens
5) Monitor susceptible groups closely
6) Once a case has been identified, isolate it and implement protocols to ensure that the pathogen is not spread to other animals and areas of the farm

1) Minimize the contact with potential sources of infection

 Achieved through:
-shortening breeding season to decrease variability in calf age:
by doing this, young calves with naive immune systems will not be exposed to older calves and cows that shed pathogens (12)

-change calving areas every year (12)
-keep calving stalls clean, dry and well ventilated; clean out between cows (2)

-provide clean water, separate newly born calves into a nursery pen and avoid manure buildup: put cows into calving pen 2 wks prior to calving and move feeding areas around (12)

-remove the dam and calf as soon as possible to a clean pasture or lot; keep pairs in small groups (10–15  maximum) for 7–14 days (2)

-for dairy calves: remove calf from cow immediately and place in clean calf hutch 10-12 ft from other hutches.  Also, keep calves in 1 week age groups as you rear them.  Never leave a small calf behind because it is most likely a carrier and it will pass pathogens onto the younger group  (20)

-don’t use the same esophageal feeder, etc., for newborn calves that is used for treatment of ill calves (2)

calf (23)

2) Miminize dystocias 

Mimimize dystocias through:

-managing cow condition score: (12)

-managing heifer liveweight and sire selection to minimize birthweight of calves; (12) and

-supervising heifer and twin calvings (calve a week earlier than rest of herd) (12)

3) Maximize colostrum intake, calf welfare and nutrition (12)
-newborn calves have no antibodies and must obtain them from the colostrum by absorption through the gut wall (2)

-however, the intestine changes rapidly after birth and by 12–24 hours, antibodies can no longer be absorbed (2)

-ideally, the calf needs two feedings of colostrum: one at 6 and 12 hrs after birth (18)

- administer 1L colostrum/20kg BW via tube feeder to calves that need assistance and if they don’t suckle within the first 6 hrs after birth (12)

- the quality of colostrum depends on the source: older cows have higher quality colostrum than heifers and it is better from the 1st than the 2nd milking (12)

- vaccination of the dam against specific agents can enhance the level of immunity passed to the calf through colostrum (2)

- if the immune status of a few day old calf is not known, a blood serum test can be done (2)

- commercial colostrum formulations can also be purchased; however, only a small proportion of antibody has been shown to be absorbed from them (2)

- colostrum derived from processed bovine serum is absorbed most efficiently: some examples of commercial colostrum include Headstart (18)

- colostrum can be collected, froze, and used at a later date: collect it within 24 hours after calving and freeze in a plastic bag (as flat as possible to facilitate thawing) (18)

- thaw out using warm water; never thaw and refreeze colostrum! (18)

- it can be stored for 1 year without a loss of quality (18)

- oral antibodies can also be administered directly to the calf in dried colostrum or egg yolk from cows or chickens immunized with viral pathogen (7)

-ensure cows have proper nutrition (specifically protein and energy) and vitamins and minerals (12)  (iodine, copper and selenium) to ensure that they can provide adequate balanced nutrition to the calf

-calving area should be sheltered, have good drainage, allow access to water within 300m and have multiple sheltered calf huts to prevent stress on calves and keep them warm (12)

feeding calf (23)

4) Prevent introduction of new calf scour pathogens:

- avoid bringing orphan calves onto your property (12)

- don’t add newly purchased animals to a herd with calves less than 6 weeks old (12)

- buy colostrum from a farm that has disease protocols in place (12)

5) Monitor susceptible groups closely

- monitor calves in heifer herds and those with a history of scours every day until calves are 3 wks of age (12)

- calve heifers 1 wk early (their calves are susceptible and thus isolation will decrease exposure to pathogens) (11)

- check other herds every 2 or 3 days (12)

6) Once a case has been identified, isolate it and implement protocols to ensure that the pathogen is not spread to other animals and areas of the farm

Use strict sanitation when treating sick calves (11). Treat sick calves only after handling the healthy calves—never before (11). Disinfect all balling guns or esophageal feeders after treating sick calves, use disposable gloves, wash your clothes and equipment after treating scouring calves, etc (11). You can carry the pathogens on your gloves, clothes, and equipment from a sick calf to a healthy calf (11)

"Calf scours can be prevented and controlled, but we must do it through proper
management. Don’t expect to find the cure or preventive in a pill, bottle, or bag."
-Dr. C. V. Bagley, Utah State University