The way cows are fed during the last two months of pregnancy can have a dramatic effect on the incidence of scours in newborn calves," says veterinarian Clell Bagley in the Utah State University Extension Beef Newsletter. "This is especially true on years with severe weather stress such as increased snow, rain, wind, mud, and colder temperatures during that period of late pregnancy."

During that last 60 days of pregnancy, it is essential that cows receive 2 pounds of crude protein per day and enough energy to keep them gaining just a little body weight in addition to growth of the calf. The need of first-calf heifers is even more critical because they are still in the growing process themselves. If this feed is not provided and the weather turns severe during this period, the development of the calf may be impaired and the immune system may not develop as it should. The result is often a serious outbreak of calf scours later during calving.

If several calves are taken to the diagnostic laboratory for evaluation, most of the commonly listed scour causing bacteria and viral agents may be isolated. But it was the breakdown in immunity that occurred a month or two before-in the form of the feed deficiency to the dam-that may have been the real culprit.

Adequate nutrition to the dam will not prevent all calf scours, but it will prevent some of the major herd problems with it. Plan ahead and provide the essential protein and energy needs to your pregnant cowherd.