Scours in young calves is caused by an interaction between the environment, the health of the calf and the presence of disease-causing agents (pathogens). Common pathogens that cause calf scours include bacteria, viruses and protozoa.
Conditions when calf scours are likely to occur
- first six weeks of life
- calves from heifers and cows with low immunity
- incidences of severe copper or selenium deficiencies
- careless handling, such as inconsistent temperature of milk replacer in hand-reared calves.
Identification and diagnosis
Exposure to the pathogens that cause calf scours is a normal part of 'growing up' for calves and most farms will have a few calves that have sticky white or yellow diarrhoea around their tails.
While technically not a disease but more a clinical condition, the cause of calf scours can be infectious or non-infectious. Diagnosis of the cause of calf scours will require assistance from a veterinarian. Knowing the specific cause of calf scours allows specific prevention strategies and treatment protocols to be put in place.
An integrated approach to prevent calf scours should consider the following:
- developing and implementing a farm biosecurity plan
- minimising contact between young calves and potential sources of infection
- maximising colostrum intake, calf welfare and nutrition during the first six weeks of life
- avoiding the introduction of new calf scours pathogens into the herd.