calf-829430_1280Calf scours is a problem faced by many beef cattle herds. Unfortunately, scours is a multi-factorial disease and there is no single thing you can do to prevent it. However, by implementing good management techniques and vaccinating your cows and heifers against the agents that cause scours the incidence can be greatly reduced.

Good management techniques include: ensuring calves receive colostrum within the first 24 hours of birth, good nutrition of the dam prior to calving, shelter and dry bedding, and reducing environmental contamination. Environmental contamination can be reduced by cleaning your corrals yearly, avoiding calving in areas that have previously had scour problems, not overcrowding pens, and not calving in areas where animals are kept in other parts of the year. Heifers don’t produce as much colostrum as cows do to protect their calves against scours and therefore should be calved prior to the cows if possible when there is minimal environmental contamination.

The scour vaccines work by stimulating the cow’s immune system to produce antibodies to the agents that commonly cause scours and then these antibodies are passed to the calf in cow’s colostrum. It takes time for the cow’s immune system to respond to the vaccine and build up antibodies to be passed into the colostrum so timing of vaccination is important.

The scour vaccine carried by Claresholm Veterinary Services is Scour Bos 9. Cows and heifers that have not been vaccinated previously with Scour Bos should be vaccinated initially 12-14 weeks before calving and then boostered 8-10 weeks before calving. Cows that were vaccinated with Scour Bos last year only need to receive single dose of Scour Bos 9 at 8-10 weeks prior to calving. The vaccine contains 4 strains of E. coli, 3 strains of Rotavirus, as well as a strain of Coronavirus and Clostridium perfringens Type C.

Prompt recognition of calves that are affected with scours is important so that they can be treated and isolated early in the disease process. These calves can quickly become dehydrated and acidotic and sometimes may need veterinary attention. Contact a CVS veterinarian if you are experiencing scours in your calves and need advice or help with treatment. CVS is equipped with a scour isolation ward where calves can be put on intravenous fluids and treated.

Reminder: If you are administering electrolytes to calves to mix them according to the label directions and do not combine them with colostrum!!