Calf scours

Calf scours prevention

Calves with scour have reduced daily liveweight gain, poor feed conversion efficiency, an extended rearing period and may be smaller than calves of a similar age. There is a significant long term impact on both beef calves, which tend to have a lower sale value and are older when slaughtered, and dairy animals where first lactation may be reduced and age at first calving higher1.

Minimising the factors which cause scour is a sensible first step - this means ensuring the calving area is as clean as possible, that the pen or shed is not overcrowded, pens for young calves are regularly disinfected and calves of different ages are not mixed.

Ensuring adequate, good quality colostrum is fed in the first two hours of life is also essential to support the calf's immune system and help it face disease challenge. Aim for 10% of their birth weight (three to four litres), as soon as possible after birth. Assessing colostrum quality with a refractometer will also give peace of mind that it contains good antibody levels.

Thereafter, feeding should aim to allow the calf to double its birthweight by weaning, which requires a growth rate of around 0.7-0.8kg/day. A calf has a feed conversion rate of about 50% in the milk feeding period and any cases of scour will reduce this2.

  1. 1 Morrison (2013) Veterinary Ireland Journal 3:264-268.
  2. 2 Improving the Welsh Dairy Supply Chain Dairy Youngstock Project, Wales.