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Calf Scours in Southern Australia

Calf Scours in Southern Australia: A review of the impact of calf scours on beef enterprises - AHW.026

Calf scours have demonstrated to be a significant and time-consuming disease problem on many beef properties.  Calves were most severely affected between one and six weeks of age. Twenty-eight percent of respondents had a prevalence of 20% or greater in one or more of the age groups and 33% of respondents had a mortality rate greater than 2% from 0 to 16 weeks. A historical survey of veterinary pathology laboratories in 4 states established that the most common pathogens isolated from faecal samples are cryptosporidia and rotavirus.

Diagnosis of calf scours was shown to be frustrating, because it is relatively expensive and results are not guaranteed. Producers were employing a large and contradictory range of management practices to control and treat calf scours, indicating that there was little clear and consistent advice available. The establishment of key management strategies at a herd level is essential to minimise calf scours in Australia.  This report details the strategic research, product development and extension required for reducing the impact of calf scours on beef enterprises.

Calf Scours in Southern Beef Enterprises Phase 2 - AHW.057

The first phase of this study determined that calf scours is a significant and time-consuming understand disease problem for many beef enterprises, and that producers and veterinarians poorly the predisposing factors, causative agents, and appropriate management of calf scours in a cow calf enterprises.

The aim of the current study was to put in place pathways that ensure consistent and scientific advice is provided to beef farmers, by all levels of extension, on the prevention, investigation, treatment and management of calf scours. The emphasis of the project was on calves aged 0 to 6 weeks in pasture based suckler beef enterprises. We also targeted standardisation of appropriate and affordable diagnostic investigation protocols on farms and laboratory testing in veterinary diagnostic laboratories.

This study includes a comprehensive literature review that outlines the latest research and opinions on all aspects of scours in neonatal beef calves and a series of best practice information modules targeted at veterinarians and farmers. It also details options for extension of this information and identifies areas for further research and product development to facilitate the prevention of calf scours in southern Australian suckler enterprises. Research is urgently required to elucidate the epidemiology of calf scours in these enterprises.

Calf scours in southern beef enterprises Phase 3 - AHW.106

Neonatal calf diarrhoea (NCD) in beef calves has been an ongoing issue for producers for many years. A previous study determined that producers and veterinarians poorly understand the predisposing factors, causes and management of calf scours in suckler beef enterprises and there was minimal extension material on this subject. Consequently affected producers were frustrated by the lack of reliable and practical advice. This report details the successful production of current scientific and practical information on the prevention, control, diagnosis and treatment of NCD for veterinarians, farm advisers and producers. Two Tips & Tools for producers and a veterinary technical information package were finalised during September 2005. The Tips & Tools were featured on the MLA web site, and the veterinary technical information was promoted at the Australian Cattle Veterinarians (ACV) conference and has been distributed to all full members of the ACV. The technical document is supported by an information CD containing the presentations from the conference and a series of technical tools. By producing interrelated information at both the producer and the technical level, it is hoped that this will provide a consistent approach to NCD in the Australian suckler beef industry and maximise the uptake by producers.

Calf scours: A survey of producers in southern Australia - AHW.129

The incidence, significance and some costs of calf scours in Southern Australia was examined by a representative telephone survey of 376 beef producers across four regions in December 2005.  The research identified that 16% of beef producers consider the condition either a significant or very significant issue.  Incidence of scours in calves under 16 weeks was estimated by producers to vary with age, but peaked at around 8% of calves in the 6 day to 20 day old age group.  Mortality was estimated to be 1.5% in this group of calves.  Producers estimated that they spent an average of $212 on products and services to treat calves for scours, an average of 85 minutes per treated calf and estimated that 8% of calves failed to thrive after scouring. These appear to represent significant costs to industry. The results of this study will benefit the meat and livestock industry by providing base data to examine associations between estimated incidence of scours and possible risk factors that were surveyed. This may provide data that will allow the development of strategies to reduce the incidence and cost of the condition. The study also provides a benchmark for the condition in 2005 and when repeated, will allow the industry to reassess its position and change strategies if needed.

B.AHE.0025 - Molecular methods for detection of calf scour pathogens

​Calf scours is an ongoing issue for beef producers and a major cause of economic loss. Calf scours is a multifactorial disease caused by a complex interaction between viral, bacterial and protozoal pathogens, the calves’ environment and immune status. This project has developed multiplex qRT–PCR assays with good analytic sensitivity for all major calf scour pathogens, providing the capacity to rapidly identify multiple pathogens contributing to disease in a single step. Loop mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP) assays were also developed for all major pathogens, but ongoing challenges with robustness and repeatability led to priority being directed at the PCR assays. The qRT-PCR successfully detected a high prevalence of infection with rotavirus, Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia spp, and the complex interaction between these pathogens and clinical disease in large scale prospective on-farm studies. These studies also verified the effectiveness of the environmental sampling techniques to demonstrate reservoirs of these pathogens, confirming the application of these tests for subsequent epidemiological studies. The ability to identify the pathogens involved; the sources of infection and the limitations and value of management interventions, supported the allocation of resources to control and subsequently prevent ongoing disease, demonstrating that these assays can provide significant farm level value.


Title Size Date published
556.9KB 01/10/2003
981.7KB 01/06/2005
83.1KB 28/04/2006
886.6KB 31/03/2006
1.7MB 23/08/2016


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Molecular methods for detection of calf scour pathogens
07/06/2010 22/08/2016

This page was last updated on 05/07/2018

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