Figures indicate that one in seven dairy calves and one in thirteen beef calves fail to make it to adulthood, with mortality highest in the first six months of life1.
Infectious calf scour is the most common disease of calves up to one month of age, while pneumonia is reported to be the main reason for ill health and mortality n calves2.
Calf scour is characterised by watery stools, which may be brown, grey, yellow or green in colour and can contain blood and mucus. Calves become dehydrated, weak, depressed and stop nursing.
When managing scouring calves the main priority is to replace lost water and electrolytes with fluid therapy. Oral rehydration solutions can be administered to calves that remain standing and alert, but intravenous fluids will be required by those that are lying, unable to stand or lethargic. Milk should not be withheld as this provides the major source of energy.
Scouring calves are highly infectious to others. To reduce the spread of disease, ensure affected calves are isolated promptly. Tend to them after dealing with healthy calves, using separate equipment, and implement scrupulous hygiene measures.
Effective treatment and pain relief with an NSAID may also be useful3.
Speed of intervetion is also important in cases of pneumonia, as is separating sick animals which can shed huge amounts of infectious organisms and are a key source of infection for animals sharing the same air space. Fast and effective treatment is critical for minimising potential lung damage as well as helping the animal feel better, encouraging eating and ensuring a more rapid recovery. Usually, this will be a combination of antibiotic therapy and a NSAID to control pain and inflammation.
- 1 NADIS, Calf nutrition and colostrum management http://www.nadis.org.uk/bulletins/calf-nutrition-adn-colostrum-management.aspx
- 2 NADIS, Improving the Welsh Dairy Supply Chain, Dairy Youngstock Project, Wales
- 3 Improving the Welsh Dairy Supply Chain - Dairy Youngstock Project - Wales