Calf scours is a suite of diseases resulting in diarrhea so treatments involve giving fluids and electrolytes by mouth or intravenously to combat dehydration, explains Brett Wessler for Drovers CattleNetwork. Tailored vaccination programs help to prevent the diseases that cause scours.
Calf scours result from both infectious and noninfectious causes, states Wessler. Noninfectious causes include poor nutrition in the mother cow, unsanitary living conditions and the inability of the calf to nurse early in life. Infectious causes include E. coli, Salmonella, viruses, parasites and molds. If scours is caught early, fluids and electrolytes by mouth help in avoiding dehydration. If dehydration progresses too far, fluids need to be administered intravenously.
If the cause of scours is bacterial, antibiotics should be given along with fluid treatment. Warm baths and heat lamps help dehydrated calves stay warm. Electrolyte solutions are available commercially, but a home remedy can be made of 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of salt and 8 ounces of 50 percent dextrose in enough water to make a gallon of liquid. The calf can have 1 quart of this solution every three hours. Milk should be avoided since it provides a growth medium for bacteria.
Scours is best treated through prevention via early nursing of calves, according to Wessler. Calves receive colostrum and antibodies from nursing, which helps fight off scour-causing diseases. Vaccination programs are an extra layer of protection but still fail in the absence of early nursing.