News & Advice

Calf scours

Nov 1, 2018 | Dairy, Young Stock

Treating calf scours can be expensive in calves of any age. The expense is not only due to the cost of treatment but also the losses associated with the decreased growth rates of affected calves. Often a calf severely affected can take months to recover and may always struggle to grow due to extensive gut damage. At this time of the year we start to see a rise in the number of cases of calf scours caused by Yersinia (bacteria), Coccidia (Protozoa) and intestinal parasites (mainly Cooperia) and to a lesser degree, Salmonella (bacteria). Often this is associated with a stress period such as transport stress, weaning or coming off meal (where there was coccidiostat in the diet) or a cold snap in the weather now they’re out of the shed. Also they may have been grazing pasture for long enough (i.e. >3 weeks) to pick up a substantial worm burden particularly if grazing on pasture with a high larval count due to having only young stock graze on it for several years.

The take home messages here to decrease the chance of this happening to your young stock are:

1. Plan your young stock pastoral care

Often the disease starts in the less well grown or younger calves in a mob who are unable to compete for food with the larger calves in a mob, so don’t treat everyone as equal. It is always a good idea to weigh calves around the point of weaning. If possible wean calves onto grass in smaller groups to reduce the effect of competition.

By weighing them, they can also receive an accurate dosage of quarantine drench if old enough. If the farm has the potential of having a high level of worm challenge because the only cattle on the farm are young stock, a quarantine drench on arrival is a good idea. Using a combination drench is vital at this stage and as most calves arrive too light for safe dosing with Abamectin; Arrest C and Dectomax is a good combination.

Young stock need constant surveillance. If a scour problem is picked up early before too much damage is done then treatment response can be rapid. On the other hand, if an extended period of time elapses before treatment then deaths may occur or the animal may remain affected for life even after treatment.

2. Faecal testing 

Identification of what is causing the scouring is really important. It is also cost effective. Sometimes the Vet turns up to find a mob of calves that have been scouring and the farmer says he has treated them all, spending lots of money in the process, for something he had in his calves a few years ago but they are still scouring. He has either drenched them again, treated them with Bivatop ($15 per 180kg calf) or Baycox C ($13 per 180kg calf). Faecal tests have then revealed the cause of the scouring is something totally different than the condition they have been treated for.

Also we have had it where the famer has just drenched them recently and thought it couldn’t be worms causing the problem. Faecal egg testing has show it is a worm problem and with investigation a resistance problem emerges or the period between drenches has been too long for that farm. Our Anexa laboratory turn around for results is very good, and we can do some testing in clinic and can therefore advise you within a short period of time the correct treatment for the problem.

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