Top 5 ways to prevent and manage calf scours

By Dr. Bob Larson, professor of production medicine

5. Identify sick calves as soon as possible so that you can remove them from contact with other calves and to treat them appropriately with fluids as directed by your veterinarian.

4. Make sure that cows calve in adequate body condition (Body Condition Score of 5 or 6) to ensure that each cow has a sufficient quantity of good quality colostrum.

3. Make sure that cows don’t congregate in one area of the pasture and create an extremely muddy environment for calves. Even if placed in a large pasture, cows will congregate near the feed and water and calves won’t spend time in the parts of the pasture that are clean. As much as possible, separate water sources and feed source and move bale rings frequently or unroll hay in a different part of the calving or nursery pasture each day so that cows and their calves spend time in the cleanest parts of the pasture.

2. Separate older calves from younger calves. Calves are at greatest risk for scours during the first three weeks of life and become fairly resistant by six to eight weeks of age. Even though older calves are not as likely to become sick with scours, they still shed a lot of the germs that cause scours and are a major source of germs to the susceptible young calves. Using several nursery pastures so that each pasture only contains calves of similar age greatly decreases the risk of calf scours.

1. Make every week like the first week of the calving season for as many cows as possible. The Sandhills Calving System recommends that enough calving pastures are available so that once a week all of the cows that calved that week are left in the pasture with their calves and all the cows that have not calved yet are moved to a new, clean pasture. In this system, calves born every week of the calving season are protected from exposed to older calves and are born on clean ground. Although starting new calving pastures each week is ideal, if you don’t have enough pastures to implement the full Sandhills System, starting new calving pastures by moving pregnant cows away from cow-calf pairs every two, or three, or even every four weeks will result in as many calves being born in the first week of their calving pasture as possible.