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  • Writer's pictureKaty Stanlake

GB Calf Health Week - Calf Scour

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Calf scour is a common problem seen in both beef and dairy herds. A recent survey found that in the last 12 months 82% of cattle farms had seen a case of calf scour and 48% had lost calves as a result of the condition1.


There are 5 main causes of calf scour that we see out on farms. These are:

  • Rotavirus

  • Coronavirus

  • Cryptosporidium

  • E.Coli

  • Coccidiosis

We tend to see these at different ages.

It is important to know which pathogen we are dealing with in an outbreak so we recommend bringing a sample into the practice for testing. These tests have results ready on the same day so you can start treatment quickly! There are other causes of scour we see less commonly such as Salmonella and BVD and these require more extensive testing.


As you can see from the pie chart overleaf the majority of calf scour is not caused by bacteria. E. coli is the only common bacterial cause and represents only 1% of all cases. This means that antibiotics are rarely useful in treating calf scour. Instead, the main focus should be on the rehydration of calves. Oral rehydration should be used alongside milk feeds. You should aim for at least four feeds a day (two of rehydration solution, two of milk). For suckler calves, keep them on the dam and give them additional rehydration fluids.

Any calves that are collapsed and too weak to hold their head up will need intravenous fluids given by a vet to rehydrate them. Nursing care is also crucial in the recovery of these calves. Making sure they are warm and dry with the use of heat lamps and plenty of fresh straw. Calf coats can work but often need changing regularly if they become soiled. Any calves showing signs should be isolated as cases can spread quickly amongst groups of calves.


As with any disease prevention is better than cure! Hygiene is key in controlling calf scour. Most pathogens are found in faeces of the dams so clean calving pens can help stop early transmission. Cleaning and disinfection of calf pens and feeders helps prevent the buildup of pathogens. For cases of Crypto special disinfectants such as Cyclex must be used.


Making sure that a calf receives at least 10% of its body weight worth of colostrum in the first six hours of life means it is four times less likely to suffer from scours.


Bovigen Scour is a vaccine given to cows 12-3 weeks before calving. It increases the amount of antibodies to Rotavirus, Coronavirus and E.Coli. This is then passed onto the calf via the feeding of colostrum boosting the protection against infectious scour.

One of the benefits of our VetTech led CalfTracker scheme is to see how effective the antibody transfer via colostrum intake is in new born calves. Contact your branch for more details.

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