Even though calving season is weeks away, this is the perfect time to talk to your clients about the basics of scours — everything from the preventive steps they can take now to tips for knowing when they should call you for help.

For example, many producers talk about “nutritional scours,” not realizing that the majority of diarrhea in calves is caused by infectious organisms such as viruses, bacteria and protozoal parasites. Sharing a quick overview of these organisms can be an excellent starting point:

Bacteria — Common bacterial causes of calf scours include E. coli, Salmonella and some types of Clostridia that can lead to early or sudden death.

Viruses — Coronavirus and Rotavirus are the most prevalent viral diseases that cause calf scours.

Protozoal parasites — Cryptosporidium parvum parasites cause severe diarrhea and dehydration in calves, while coccidia cause bloody diarrhea in calves several weeks to several months of age.

This also is the time to encourage producer-clients to get a head start on managing calf scours by reminding them of ways to control this costly ailment:

  • Check to make sure vaccinations are up-to-date so the cows’ immune system can produce the antibodies calves need
  • Provide a clean calving environment; breakdowns in sanitation are a common, but avoidable, cause of calf scours. Calves that ingest feces prior to consuming colostrum will experience more health problems.   
  • Be prepared with supplies to aid in scour control and treatment
    • Colostrum replacer and supplement to assist when maternal colostrum is inadequate
    • Appropriate antibiotics to fight certain bacteria and coccidia
    • Electrolytes to stave off dehydration and nutrient imbalances
  • Plan to check cows and calves regularly during calving season
  • And, most important, ensure calves receive sufficient, high-quality colostrum in a timely manner

Make sure your clients know when it’s time to call you — the cost of treatment is low compared to the losses when calves fail to thrive or die as a result of scours.

“While scours prevention and treatment information is widely available, keep in mind that searching for it may not be top-of-mind for your clients,” says Dr. Roger Winter, technical services veterinarian for AgriLabs. “Producers rely on you to deliver these proactive solutions at the right time.”

You can help beef producers prepare for this critical time with simple, yet effective, scour-prevention strategies. Click here for a printable “Dealing with Calf Scours” reference sheet to share with your clients.