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Calf Scours

Calf diarrhoea (scours) is normal often a normal part of the calf’s gut developing and getting used to milk and feeding outside the womb. The best assessment of whether or not scours is a problem is to look at the mob or pens of calves; not just considering the consistency of individual faeces, but assessing the whole group and the whole calf (not just the faeces).

Causes of Scours

The predisposing factors for scours are similar almost regardless of the cause. Some of the more common factors in outbreaks are inadequate colostrum intake, poor feeding hygiene, poor feeding routines with poor quality CMRs (calf milk replacers), inadequate housing and overcrowding.

The pathogens involved in calf scours vary from

  • None (as with simple nutritional scours)
  • Viruses (Rotavirus and Coronavirus)
  • Protozoa (Cryptosporidium and Coccidia)
  • Bacteria (Salmonella and E.coli)

Management of Scours

Diagnosis of the infectious agent is very useful, as it can influence both prevention and treatment. This may be achieved by stool samples but post-mortem tissues might be necessary as well. Post mortem exams and examination of the scene by an experienced vet can be very insightful.


Treatment of scours is based on the following:

  • Good fluid therapy
    • This is the cornerstone to treatment of calf scours. Severe dehydration caused by diarrhoea can lead to organ failure and death. Balanced fluid therapy not only corrects water deficits, but also corrects electrolytes, acidosis and energy deficits as well.
  • Antimicrobial therapy
    • These are useful when bacterial causes of diarrhoea are involved.
  • Pain relief
    • This can be a dramatic help, as pain free calves will suckle better and rehydrate themselves.


Prevention and control

This is best achieved in shed by patience, cleanliness and attention to detail. Provision of good quality feeds, good hygiene, careful observation and prompt/vigorous treatment of calves is recommended. 

Setting up the calf shed with batch management (all in, all out) and vaccination of dams against E.coli, Salmonella and rota/corona viruses can be very helpful, provided the calves are fed adequate colostrum!

Give us a call if you have any questions about setting up calf sheds, establishing treatment protocols or training staff.

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About Us

Local farmers, associated rural communities and Te Puke town people have supported Te Puke Vet Centre for over 50 years. During those years scores of receptionists, nurses and vets have lived and enjoyed the benefits of this great town and area. It is very important for Te Puke Vets that we are strongly integrated with the local community and as part of that we are proud to support many local schools, sports clubs, service organisations and community events.