When signs of calf scours occur, act immediately

Scours in beef calves

Diarrhoea in calves often occurs within a few days after arrival on the beef farm. It results in costs, poor growth and a lot of work for the farmer. Much can be done to reduce the risk of diarrhoea in beef calves.

Calf scours causes

Beef calves often originate from a lot of different farms each harbouring different gut organisms. Stressful transport and mixing reduces immunity and results in calf diarrhoea.

The danger of dehydration

Calf diarrhoea results in a reduction of milk intake and loss of electrolytes and water. This will reduce growth, but severe cases of calf scours will cause dehydration which could kill the calf. Dehydration is expressed as the percentage of body weight lost in the form of water.

Calf scours symptoms

Because dehydration can kill so rapidly, it is important to recognize calf diarrhoea and the signs of dehydration as early as possible. When signs of calf scours occur, use electrolytes immediately to ensure rapid recovery and avoid calf losses as a result of calf diarrhoea.

  • Managing the calves upon arrival

    Managing the calves upon arrival

    New arrivals are usually dehydrated as a result of transport, and will have to face a change from the feed they used to get on the farm where they came from to the feed used on the new farm. For this specific purpose only, feed the calves an electrolyte solution such as Farm-O-San PowerFit upon arrival, and gradually introduce them to the new feeding regime.

  • Feeding practices

    Feeding practices

    Use a high quality calf milk replacer (preferably LifeStart endorsed) and follow the recommendations of the manufacturer of the calf milk replacer. Introduce solid feed from two weeks of age onwards and ensure the calf is used to the post weaning diet before it is actually weaned. Use a step down weaning programme to reduce the amount of stress as much as possible.


  • Housing


    Reduce stress as much as possible, ensure the climate is correct, and each calf has enough space at the feeding fence. Use an “all-in all-out” system, and disinfect the barn in between rounds.

  • Management of sick animals

    Management of sick animals

    A calf that is sick as a result of diarrhoea struggles if it is part of a larger group of animals. Scours can spread from calf to calf. Therefore, it is crucial to separate sick calves from healthy calves.

How to manage your calves?

Colostrum management, feeding practices and housing are all important to try to avoid calf scours.

When diarrhoea occurs, calf losses can be avoided

Dehydration resulting from calf scours is what usually kills the calf. Next to that, the temporary drop in milk intake results in a lower energy intake. For this reason, calves with diarrhoea should be offered a product that stabilises the water and electrolyte balance and provides them with energy.

What you need to know about diarrhoea in beef calves

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