Within the first few hours of life, a calf gets up and is likely to suckle everything within reach as it searches for the udder. In the process, the calf is at risk for picking up various pathogens. As these pathogens make their way to the gut, the calf can quickly develop scours and become dehydrated.
When pregnant cows have been vaccinated against bacterial and viral pathogens like E coli, Rotavirus and Coronavirus, they pass along the protection to calves through their colostrum. It’s important that the calf received adequate colostrum in order to achieve passive transfer of immunity from disease. You may wish to feed a supplemental dose of Colostrum, especially when the weather is poor. Cold, damp, and muddy conditions can increase the pathogen load and weaken a calf’s immune system.
Scour protection Antibiodies may be administered to newborn calves within the first 6 to 12 hours of life. They provide a degree of scour protection until the calf’s immune system is functional. Certain types of scours and pneumonia are caused by bacterial infections and may improve with the use of sulfas and Antibiotics.
Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto) is another possible cause of calf scours, which is resistant to treatment. The organism invades cells in the intestines and can quickly spread through a high percentage of the calf crop. Avoid buying calves to cross-foster, as this is the usual source of the organism.
Clean, dry calving areas also help prevent infection. Keep ‘em warm and dry!