Four Tips to Prevent Beef Calf Scours

Management : Cow & Calf

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Purina Animal Nutrition

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

You’ve probably heard this many times. The age-old saying is especially true for the most vulnerable in your herd—your beef calves.

Dehydration means a calf is losing more fluids than it takes in. Calf scours commonly cause dehydration and can set back a calf’s future productivity. Good management practices and proactive intervention will help you conquer calf dehydration. Consider these tips:

1. Prepare for a successful calving season.

A smooth calving season isn’t possible without preparation. Make sure you have these 12 calving season essentials before your first calf is born.

2. Avoid mixing beef calves of different ages.

Eliminate the age gap and the potential for older beef calves to shed pathogens to younger calves by shortening the calving window. Or, consider implementing a calving system that keeps different ages separate, like the Sand Hills Calving System.

3. Provide high quality nutrition that meets both cow and calf needs.

It’s important to maintain proper nutrition through the third trimester and into calving season so the cow can provide for and properly nurse her calf. High-quality, year-round nutrition also prepares her to rebreed quickly.
Make sure beef calves are up on their feet soon after birth to nurse and consume colostrum. Adequate colostrum provides beef calves with necessary antibodies and provides immunity against pathogens.1 If you doubt that a calf has nursed and consumed enough colostrum, provide an alternative source, like LAND O LAKES® Colostrum Replacer, as an insurance policy.

4. Observe beef calves daily.

Evaluate each calf and look for signs of dehydration or calf scours. Symptoms include:
  • Inactivity, lethargy and weakness
  • Droopy ears
  • Sunken eyes
  • Watery diarrhea and fecal staining

5. Have a treatment plan in place before calving season.

Even the best management program can fail. Unpredictable weather and new pathogens can throw your beef calves off course. Use your local veterinarian to form a treatment plan specific to your operation.

Don’t be caught off guard by calf scours during calving season. A proactive plan will help you minimize calf scours and dehydration.

It’s never too early to prepare for weaning calves. Give your calves a strong, healthy start with strong starter feeds.

1 Retrieved from: Great Plains Beef Cattle Handbook by Gene White, D.V.M. University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Kurt Wohlgemuth, D.V.M., North Dakota State University-Fargo.