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A little school about calf stool.....

Recently, we have seen increasing numbers of calves with scours, or diarrhea. This spike is likely in relation to the thirty-degree temperature swings that we have been seeing throughout November. These temperature swings cause stress in the calves and this stress decreases the body’s ability to fight infections.

Possible causes of scours


Prevention begins initially by insuring adequate colostrum intake. Ideally we would make sure that each calf has nursed within 6 hours or birth. This immunity will help protect calves even in the worst of environments. Another important tool is good pasture management. The number of infectious organisms increase in the pasture as we move through calving season. Late born calves are the most susceptible to infection, so it is advantageous to move cows that haven’t calved by halfway through the calving season to a new pasture.

The time to set up effective management strategies

is before calving season starts!

Sick Calf Identification

When you are out checking your cattle and you see a scouring calf, here is a list of questions to ask yourself to help determine how sick and how dehydrated the calf is:

  • Have you seen the calf nurse?

  • Can the calf keep up with its dam?

  • If not, is it standing or laying down?

  • If it is laying down, can it get up?

  • What is its temperature?

  • Are the eyes sunken?

  • Are its gums moist or dry?

Scouring Calf Treatment

Treatment is typically based on rehydration and fluid therapy. When calves are scouring, they are losing a large amount of their body fluid along with important electrolytes. Fluids may be administered orally, under the skin, or intravenously depending on the severity of dehydration. These fluids can be obtained from your vet, at which time you will be talked through appropriate administration.

While some of the causes of scours are bacterial, many cases also involve viruses or protozoa. Viruses and protozoa aren’t responsive to antibiotics; therefore, supportive care is very important along with medications. If the calf has a temperature below 99 or above 103 degrees then antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory may be given along with fluid therapy.

Replacement electrolytes are also a key component, Resorb and Diaque are two oral electrolyte products routinely given. They differ slightly in composition, with Diaque being formulated for initial treatment.

A broad vitamin supplement such as Multimin may also be beneficial.

Scour Testing

On site rapid test for scours

If you have 2 or more calves with scours we recommend further investigation. ScourTest is a new test on the market that can be run right at your farm.

The test requires fresh feces from a scouring calf. It is able to identify the four most common pathogens: E. Coli K99, RotaVirus, CoronaVirus, and Cryptosporidium.

Protect yourself around calf scours!

Lastly, many of the common causes of calf scours can also cause disease in humans. When working with scouring calves you should practice good hygiene. Ideally, wear gloves to handle animals, and wash your hands after handling the bedding or feed of scouring calves.

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