When hours count – Calf scours

A baby calf is most susceptible to calf scours between three and 16 days of life. (Photo by Jessica Crabtree)

By Jessica Crabtree

Calf scours in actuality means calf diarrhea. Cattle of any age can develop diarrhea; however, producers must pay particular attention to calves less than one month old. A baby calf is most susceptible between three and 16 days of life. The three pathogens that lead to calf scours include viruses, bacteria and microscopic parasites doing damage do the intestinal tract.
Calf scours is the leading component to financial loss for cow/calf producers. It is important to understand calf scours is not a single disease, but a clinical sign to multiple diseases characterized by diarrhea. When born, a calf is roughly 70 percent water. With scours, a calf loses fluids and rapidly dehydrates. No matter the cause, scours prevents the absorption of fluids from the intestines. With dehydration, the animal will lose essential body chemicals, electrolytes, sodium and potassium and build up acid. Once dehydration from scours occurs, the calf suffers from electrolyte loss and acidosis. The infectious agents are to blame for the damage to intestine; however, death from scours is due to loss of electrolytes, acidosis and dehydration. To read more pick up the April 2016 issue of NTFR.