- Spur Ridge Vet Hospital

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Calf Scours
Causes, Prevention, & Treatment
Brendan Kraus, DVM
Thanks Dr. Larson
Calf Scours Complex
 Multifactorial
Disease
Host
Environment
Agent
Host Factors
Level of Immunity
 Passive
 Calves
Transfer
are born without antibodies
 Calves
should ingest at least 1 gallon of colostrum
in the first 12 hours of life (recommendations have
changed)
 Many
calves ingest inadequate levels
Host: Level of Immunity
Passive Transfer
Host: Level of Immunity
Prevention Tips
1)
Ensure Adequate Passive Transfer
2)
Prevent Dystocia
3)
Bull Selection Based on EPD for
birth weight and calving ease
Select for Calving Ease
Host: Level of Immunity
Prevention Tips
4) Proper Development of Dam
 Dam
should calve at BCS 5.5-6.0
 Avoid
over-condition or rapid weight
gain in late gestation (fat in pelvic canal)
BCS 6
Environment Factors

Overcrowding

Poor Sanitation

Damp or wet ground

Age of Dam

Poor Quality Milk/milk replacers
Environment: Overcrowding/Sanitation
Prevention Tips
1)
Optimize Environment/Sanitation

Calving areas should be as clean and
dry as possible

Calves should be dispersed as much
as possible (intensive vs. extensive)
Intensive vs. Extensive Concentration
Intensive Permits Ready
Intervention
Extensive Favors Hygiene
Environment: Overcrowding/Sanitation
Prevention Tips
1) Optimize Environment/Sanitation
(cont.)
 Separate
calving pasture from winter
feeding pastures (more uncommon for
spring calvers)
 Feeding
strategy considerations
Feeding Strategy Considerations
Bale
feeders
Spread bales
Feed bunk movement
Water sources
Stockpiled forage
Environment: Overcrowding/Sanitation
Prevention Tips
1)
Optimize Environment/Sanitation
(cont.)

Calving areas should have adequate
drainage

Provide protection from the wind
Environment: Overcrowding/Sanitation
Prevention Tips
2)
Control Exposure

Which calves are at risk?
Calves are not Equally at Risk!
1 to 3 week-old
calves are also
shedding the most
scours pathogens
Calf Age (days) at Time of Death Due to Scours
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
0-5
6-10
11-15 16-20 21-25 26-30

Most calves are 1 to 2 weeks of age at time of death
 Calves older than 3 weeks are at low risk of death
From David Smith et al, 2004
Calves are not Equally at Risk!
Attack Rate by Week
(From Start of Calving Season)
30%
25%
20%
15%
10%
5%
0%

Calves born early in the calving season are at low risk
 Calves born late in the calving season are at high risk
From David Smith et al, 2004
Calves are not Equally at Risk!
Attack Rate by Week
(From Start of Calving Season)
30%
25%
20%
15%
10%
5%
0%

The risk of scours and the severity of disease in
each affected calf increases as the calving
season progresses
 The age at disease onset decreases as the
calving season progresses
From David Smith et al, 2004
Environment: Overcrowding/Sanitation
Prevention Tips
2) Control Exposure (cont.)

Pasture Rotation
 Keep
young calves away from older
calves
Control Exposure: Keep Young
Calves away from Older Calves
Pasture Rotation
1) Mid-late gestation pasture (minimum)
 Can
be sorted at preg check OR
2) Move heavies every 1-3 weeks
 New
calves being born on clean pasture
 Older calves staying behind in
contamination
 Herd reassembled for breeding

Youngest calf around 3 weeks old
Environment: Overcrowding/Sanitation
Prevention Tips
2) Control Exposure (cont.)

Calve Heifers Early

Be Wary of Outside Calves
Agent

Escherichia coli (1-6 days)

Clostridium perfringens (1-14 days)

Rota Virus (5-21 days)

Corona Virus (5-36 days)

Cryptosporidium (6-21 days)

Salmonella (6-36 days)
E. Coli
2
types: Septicemia & Enterotoxogenic

Usually within 3-5 days of life

Severe, watery diarrhea (secretory, ETEC)

Depression

Hypothermia

Distant Infections (joints, brain navel, septicemia)
Enterotoxogenic E-coli
Clostridium perfringens
< 2 weeks old
 Low morbidity : High mortality
 Healthy, fast growing calves
 Heavy milking dams
 Sudden Death
 Diarrhea/Abdominal Pain
 Necrosis of small intestine
 Enlargement of intestinal lymph nodes

Rotavirus
Most Common
 Often found in mixed infections
 5 days to 3 weeks of age
 Affects small intestine
 Voluminous (Malabsorptive)


Lactose washout with osmotic diarrhea
Dehydration
 At least 7 days to repair intestinal damage

Coronavirus
More Severe than Rota
 5 days to 30 days of age
 Large and small intestine
 Dehydration
 Anorexia
 Infects intestinal cells more severely
 Malabsorption/maldigestion
 Respiratory Infections

Cryptosporidium
Zoonotic Potential
 7 days to 30 days of age
 Protracted, non-responsive diarrhea
 Intracellular but extracytoplasmic

Drugs difficult to kill
 Off Label

Salmonella
> 10 days of age
 Foul smelling diarrhea
 Fibrin and mucosa may be present in stool
 Distant infections

Treatment Challenges
 Hypothermia
 Hypoglycemia
 Acidosis
 Low
Protein
 Electrolyte Imbalances
 Hypovolemia/Dehydration
Treatment
 Cornerstone
of Treatment is
Fluid Therapy
Calculate Dehydration % and
Replacement Amount
Fluid Therapy
Fluid Therapy
 Correct
Dehydration
 Correct Electrolyte Imbalances
 Combat Shock
 Support Internal Organ Function
 Supplement Energy
Fluid Therapy
Routes of Administration

Oral

Intravenous
Oral Fluids
 Must
have GI motility (body temp)
 Must have GI perfusion (dehydration)
 Must have absorptive function
(damage)
 Benefits-Inexpensive
Intravenous Fluids
 Rapid
Replacement of fluid deficits
 Replacement of Electrolytes
(bicarbonate)
 Base Deficit Correction
 Replacement of Ongoing Losses
Treatment, Other
 Nutritional
Support
 Body Temperature Maintenance
 Maintain Oral Fluids/Electrolytes
 Antibiotics +/-
Scours Outbreak
 Short Term Intervention Strategies
 Treat affected calves
 Calving site selection and management


Calving season


Move pregnant cows away from nursing cows
Dystocia management


Change location of calves
Monitor calving closely
Good husbandry and nutrition of dam
Scours Outbreak
 Long Term Prevention Strategies
 Care and Nutrition of Dam
 Dystocia


Calving site selection and management


Plan ahead, get site ready
Pasture Rotation


Sire selection and heifer development
Be as aggressive as you need for your operation
Vaccination (last for a reason)
Scours Vaccination
Dam vaccinated/antibodies in colostrum
 To be used as a tool in the arsenal
 Usage determined by risk
 Vaccination of younger stock
 Must have two rounds prior to calving the
first year
 Vaccinations available for the calf
 Will not work as sole prevention measure

A Too Common Scenario?

It’s March 3, a cold drizzle is coming down
as you slide across the pasture in 4WD. Vet
and client are surveying a pasture of 40
cow/calf pairs. Calves range in age from 1
day to 2 months. The mud is ankle deep.
Approximately 50% of the calves have fluid
stools. Four calves have died in the last 2
days, and at present, 4 calves are weak and
unable to stand. The client turns and asks,
“What do you think we should we do?”
Questions?
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