Calf scours (diarrhoea) is the main cause of calf mortality world-wide. As well as the obvious loss of valuable animals, scouring carries costs such as cost of treatment and poor subsequent growth of the animal. Scours may be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites – or a combination of all three. Other causes include intestinal worms, Bovine Viral Diarrhoea and poor nutrition. The new-born calf is unusual is that it is born with no immunity to disease. The biggest contributor to calf scours is failure of passive transfer i.e. COLOSTRUM fed too late or in insufficient quantity.

Colostrum: contains immunoglobulins, is high in fat, energy, vitamins, white blood cells and growth factors. Not only is it the ideal food for the new-born calf, but it is the only way the calf can develop it’s immunity to disease. Immediately after birth, the calf's intestine is able to absorb antibodies well. As soon as anything goes into the digestive tract (mucous, manure, dirt, straw, colostrum, etc.), the cells lining the calf's intestine start to change from rectangular to square cells. The square cells are unable to absorb the antibodies. This decrease in absorptive capacity occurs rapidly – and within 24 hours the ability to absorb antibodies is lost. To ensure that the new-born calf receives adequate colostrum the cow should be milked and the calf bottle-fed colostrum within 1 hour of birth. A rule of thumb is to feed 10% of the calf’s birth weight in the initial feed, following it with a second colostrum feed of 5% of birth weight. In the case of a difficult calving, a large, cold, weak or wet calf it is even more essential that the calf receives adequate colostrums as soon as possible after birth.    Excess colostrum can be frozen and thawed in warm water in the case where a cow dies, has insufficient or poor quality colostrum.

Ensure good quality colstrum by:   
•    Calving cows in good condition (BCS 3.5)
•    Ensure calving problems are kept to a minimum
•    Adequate nutrition (especially protein) during the dry period
•    Reduce stress of cows and calves.
•    Eliminating mastitis, as colostrums from mastitic cows is of poorer quality.

•    Heifer management is important as the incidence of scours is higher in calves from heifers.
•    Breed to calf down at +- 85% of mature weight
•    Ensure “easy calving”
•    Separate from mature cows (to observe; decrease dominance by elders etc.)
•    Feed adequately during pregnancy for growth and gestation.

Vaccination of the dam with SCOURGUARD 3k one month before calving will ensure passive immunity to Rotavirus, Corona virus, Clostridium perfringens type C toxoid ,Escherichia coli bacterin.

Treatment Principals
•    Clean and hygienic calving environment and calf pens.
•    Isolate sick calves from healthy calves
•    Consult your veterinarian if  the calf is badly dehydrated, down, has fever
•    Use rehydration fluids   
•    Do NOT stop milk
•    Do not mix milk and electrolyte oral fluids in one feeding (2 hour gap recommended)
•    Usually antibiotics do NOT WORK. Consult your vet.

To prevent deaths from scours:

THE 4 C’s
•    Colostrum
•    Cleanliness – hygiene, pens, buckets.
•    Comfort – keep the calf clean, dry and warm.
•    Consistency – feed same time, milk at same temperature

Ref:  “Colostrum for the Dairy Calf The most important factor in dairy calf health and survival is feeding the newborn calf adequate amounts of high-quality colostrum early in its life.” Brian Lang, Veal Specialist at OMAFRA.